REAL CLOTHES: DEAR ANNIE...

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Send your fashion problems to: Dear Annie, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, or fax them on: 0171 293 2043. E-mail: annie@independent.co.uk

My four-year-old daughter has asked me for a fairy outfit for her birthday. I know I should probably make her one but a) I'm not very good with a needle and thread and b) I know I'll buy all the bits and then not do it till the last minute - quite frankly I could do without the stress. I don't have loads of money to spend and I'd absolutely love you if there was someone that did one mail order as I could also do without having to traipse around the shops. This is probably a tall order and not a fashiony enough question but if you can help me, Annie, please do!

Natasha Cox, Frampton

Oh Natasha, Natasha. You sound very stressed and fed up and I'm not surprised as the part of your letter that I had to edit tells me that you've recently had another baby. No wonder the thought of sourcing a fairy outfit for your little girl is making you feel like you want to trade them both in for a nice foot spa or a clock radio. Kids, eh? I did quite a bit of searching for you here. Fairy outfits aren't that hard to find, but I decided you really needed mail order, so in a few days (I rang up on your behalf and ordered you a catalogue so I hope the address you put on your letter was your real one) you will receive a Letterbox catalogue (tel: 01872 580885). On page 16 there is a fairy princess outfit that fits ages 3-7+. It's rather nice with the sort of raggedy hemmed skirt in white tulle that I coveted as a child; there's also a halo thing, wand and wings but no shoes. (The best fairies have bare feet, obviously.) It's not madly cheap at pounds 19.99 but I hope you find that affordable.

I recently bought a pair of black, leather Prada shoes. The ones with a long chisel toe, slightly thick sole and indented heel. They cost me pounds 180 and they seemed to fit when I bought them but, after wearing them for a few days, I find they slip off. What should I do? Wear an insole? If so, a whole one, a half one? Is it just that I'm not used to wearing slip-on shoes and miss the safety net of a bar or other "holding" device across my foot?

Miranda, Highbury

How annoying. I too had this very problem recently (which is probably the only reason why I'm printing this "not really a problem" problem). Unless you get slip-on shoes which are so tight they hurt, there always seems to be a bit of "slip" after just a few hours' wear. My advice: do not sully your Prada shoes with insoles. If you must, you could stuff the "dead" space in the chisel toe with some cut-up old tights. This will push your foot back a bit, plus the tight remnants have "give" so you won't feel too squashed up. They also probably do feel a bit more insecure anyway if you are used to wearing shoes with straps and the like, but surely you won't be going on long hikes with your Prada shoes? The odd bit of crossing the floor at cocktail parties is all that Miuccia meant those shoes for, despite the industrial strength tread on the soles.

Readers, can I interrupt this column with an update? Recently a reader asked about driving shoes and I could not find any cheap ones. Well, now I have. Next Directory (Tel: 0345 100500) does some in plain black leather, snake print or pale blue suede in sizes 35-43 for pounds 36.99 and I would not be doing my job properly if I did not bring these to your attention. Whilst on the subject of updates, loads of you have written in with "I know" answers to recent problems, such as soap leaves and brown wellies. I shall report back next week.

Can you please help me locate a make of jeans without back pockets?

Jennifer Straler, Warminster

No. They are vile and will make your bottom look enormous.

I'm going on a business trip to France and I'm looking for an easy wear, unstructured suit, preferably in black. Something chic but understated, unlined, washable if at all possible. I hope you know the sort of thing I mean. I'm a size 14/16 and not rich.

Bella, Sussex

I have a possible suit for you from CK Calvin Klein but it's not washable and will be out of your price range. But I've found rather a nice one for you, rather by fluke actually as I'm not good on these very specific requests. Artigiano (Tel: 0845 6020001) do a pair of jersey crepe palazzo pants that look very fluid and easy to wear (with an elasticated waist but they're very elegant, not old ladyish) and they cost only pounds 49. There isn't a jacket as such but there is a matching jersey crepe cardigan, which looks like an unstructured jacket with V-neck and no collar, pounds 55. Under that you could wear either a crepe vest, pounds 25, or the T-shirt (short sleeved) that has slits at the side, pounds 39. You can also (bliss!) wash them on a delicate machine wash and they come in black only. Size 3 would probably suit your size. I'm really rather pleased with myself for finding you this cos I think it will be a fab outfit and just what you want.

Annie regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Dear Annie is a registered trademark. The book Dear Annie, a fully updated compilation of past columns plus all the directories, is on sale priced pounds 9.99, published by Faber and Faber.

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