REAL CLOTHES: DEAR ANNIE...

My husband loves Bruno Saint Hilaire trousers but unfortunately they are no longer available in Cardiff. I can travel to Bristol or Bath, or, if I have to, London. Please help!

Mary Brown, Cardiff

Well hello there and happy Boxing Day. Readers, do you realise this is our FIFTH Christmas together. Mary, these trousers sound slinky. Well, the wonders of the internet! I did a search in London, south-east England, southern England, Great Britain and then I thought, Bruno Saint Hilaire ... could be Italian with that first name, could be French with that surname. So I tried Paris, and bingo! I found it. Several phone calls ensued in which I had to use my once-excellent now tres-rusty French and after following the trail round various French cities I managed to track down the UK agent (I realise that I am showing off). And they told me that your nearest stockist is Cayzers, 116-120 Chepstow Road, Newport, Gwent (tel: 01633 258877). There are lots of other stockists too for anyone interested - John Lewis and Selfridges being just two: ring 01902 747646 for details of your nearest ones.

Where can I get a man's winter hat, in fur or astrakhan, genuine or imitation, without brim, peak or earflaps? I had one in real black astrakhan but lost it. It cost me $15 in the street market in Moscow; it would have been cheaper in GUM but they only had one size and didn't want to serve me in any case. I realise it will be a lot dearer in London.

C Jermey, London

Astrakhan (or persian lamb) is very popular in Russia as it comes from the tight curly fleece of the karakul lamb, which is found there. And, for those of you, like me, who don't know what GUM is (I thought you were referring to the fact that you could have paid for your hat in sticks of gum - silly me) let me explain that it is a store in Moscow. I have managed to find some places here that sell them (after much looking, let me tell you) but as you predicted, they cost some. Bates at 21a Jermyn Street, London SW1 (tel: 0171 734 2722) does one in real astrakhan for pounds 195 that is shaped like an American airforce hat, which is what I imagine yours is like. If you'd like one in fake astrakhan then the milliner Clare Tester of Angus and Hamie hats can make you one from pounds 70. She is based in Scotland but can work with you by post/telephone (tel: 01764 652153).

How are your pigs and children (not in that order)? I am replying to a reader's query about where to buy cheap designer bridal gowns (3 October). There is a place in Leeds called the "Abbey Wedding Warehouse" which has wedding dresses for all pockets. It includes ex-catwalk dresses at fantastically low prices. View by appointment only (tel: 0113 2782838).

Anne Aspinall, Lancs

The pigs and children are fine Anne, thanks for asking, and full of turkey (the latter - my pigs are fed on a strictly vegetarian diet). And thanks for the useful tip.

Prompted by your leather jacket fashion feature (31 October), I also have a leather jacket purchased second hand at an incredibly bargainous pounds 3, but with it came the second-hand stink. To be blunt, it smells like an old man died in it. I have tried most things: airing it for a month, spraying on copious amounts of deodorant, Fabreze, anything of a contrasting stench and the dry-cleaners who helpfully said they "don't do leather". None of these made any difference. Please advise before the flies swarm.

Nicola, Torquay, Devon

There are several things you might consider. 1) Swarms of flies are very fashionable; 2) Surely there must be loads of other dry-cleaners in Devon who would "do leather". Get the Yellow Pages out. I get asked about stinky things a lot. Usually I advise washing things in a solution of bicarbonate of soda or a mild solution of vinegar, or even vodka. All substances that are great at neutralising smells. But these are not suitable for leather as you cannot wash it. Dry-cleaning is your best option (and really you will find a dry-cleaner that will do it), but before you do that try leaving it on a washing line on a cold winter's night. There's something about cold night air, although I have a feeling it might not be strong enough for your particular poignant pong. Try it though.

I am hand-knitting a three-ply cashmere and silk dress for my son's wedding. Could you tell me what the fashionable length will be come April 2000? I am 5ft 5in tall, my legs are good, but I cannot make up my mind whether to knit it long, below the knee, knee length, or a bit above and I need to know when to stop! The pattern is a slight flare from under the bust to wherever. And please do tell me the dreadful clumpy shoes which are in at the moment will be out by then. Thank you.

Jill, Northampton

Make it bang on the knee. And I certainly think that "dreadful clumpy shoes" will start becoming both less dreadful and less clumpy by next spring.

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