Dear Answer Angel: I have this cute pair of cheap, pleather loafers that I never wear because they produce a very loud, obnoxious squeaking sound. I've worn them twice to work, and on both occasions the constant squeaking interrupted my colleagues. Do you have any suggestions on how to get my shoes to stop making so much noise?
— Eeek! They squeak.
Dear Squeaky: You're a better woman than I. I'd have worn them anyhow (and irritated my co-workers; they're used to that) in the hope that the squeak eventually would go away. But, here's an unexpected solution: Slather your shoes in hand lotion. Try to pinpoint the squeak then apply lots of lotion to that area, inside and out. Obviously you want to test a tiny spot to make sure it won't wreck the shoes. And this treatment is totally not recommended for suede. If you're afraid that the greasy stuff (in a pinch, substitute olive oil, WD-40 or another lubricant) will damage the shoes, try powder inside and beneath the insole.
Dear Answer Angel: I bought one of those popular opaque blouses that you see all over these days. It's a muted print — sort of see-through but not really. It's too revealing to wear without some covering underneath. I had intended to wear a lacy cami under the blouse but I'm wondering if that's OK for work?
— J. Catherine
Dear J. Catherine: If you have to ask. … I'm assuming you're worried that that the cami is too "lingerie" for the workplace. Consider a plain camisole (no lace) or, for more coverage (always a plus in the office), try a sleeveless T-shirt. I'm a big fan of the $12.90 "Airism" and "Heattech" styles at Uniqlo (uniqlo.com).
Dear Answer Angel: Being a 20-something with little extra to spend on fashion, I am having trouble determining what is a "staple" piece in my wardrobe. I hear friends justifying spending extra money on certain pieces because they figure it is something they can wear for a long time. With fashions changing so much and so quickly, how does one determine what these pieces are?
— Fashion Clueless
Dear Clueless: I've heard that old "I'll wear it forever" line a lot when women try to justify spending too much on their clothes. And, I'll bet they don't wear whatever "it" is enough to justify the cost. That said, there are "investment pieces" that are worth spending a little extra on for better fabric and workmanship that will make them last for a good long while. These are the backbone of a wardrobe that you'll reach for all the time. Mine are a black pleated skirt ($60 at a consignment store almost 20 years ago), a black pencil skirt ($70 at Nordstrom), a no-iron classic white shirt (it killed me to pay full price, $82, foxcroftcollection.com) and a black cashmere sweater ($80 at a consignment shop). Another good basic worth spending your limited cash on would be a versatile, well-fitting jacket/blazer — again, I would choose black. I'm still on the hunt for the perfect (packable) black trousers. My essential "little black dress" is a stretchy, flattering one I picked up at Wal-Mart for $20. At that price, I'm willing to replace it once in a while. Staples don't have to be expensive. With some standout, colorful accessories trimyou can put together scores of outfits that rely on the repeat pieces. And smart shoppers scout bargain basics at consignment and thrift shops. For me, those stores are an addiction.
Dear Answer Angel: What do you think of those dresses with drastically uneven hems that are way shorter in the front than the back? I'm seriously tempted for summer.
Dear Joanie: Those are the flip side of the wardrobe essentials discussed above. They're an of-the-moment fashion item, a fun look for a season. But this is where you should invest as little as possible. I put them in the same category as the peplum look that's here today and then, poof. Buy a cheapo version, enjoy, recycle.
Dear Answer Angel: Our son is graduating from eighth grade. He wants a laptop or an iPhone as a graduation gift. What's the right thing to do? After all, I'm hoping he has several more graduations in his future.
— Confused Mom
Dear Confused: A handwritten note telling him how proud you are of his accomplishments and a pizza night with some pals is about right. Lavish spending for an eighth-grade graduate is indulgent and silly.
Reader rant — sort of
Please let people know that it's OK to cut the stitching holding the vent closed at the back of their trench coat! Thanks!
— Nancy L.
Dear Nancy: That almost doesn't qualify as a rant. You're verging into mere gentle "urging" territory. It is not only OK, it is mandatory to cut those threads! Just today I spotted a woman in a peach jacket with the rear vent still basted shut. Those threads on vents on jackets, coats, even skirts with a kick pleat are meant to be snipped immediately. Men, incidentally, are the worst offenders. And, pockets are often basted shut as well. Many people think that the pockets are fakes when all it takes is careful cutting the thread to open them up. And who doesn't need more pockets?
Real reader rant
About women's bathing suits: Why do we have to wear such body-baring styles? This has nothing to do with body image, religion or prudishness. But we don't like it when men — however physically fit — wear Speedos, yet women are expected to do the equivalent. I'm working on keeping my 3-year-old daughter from lifting her skirts above her head. I tell her that underwear is supposed to be private. But I'm supposed to let her wear clothing that shows the exact same amount of skin in a public place? I'm having trouble figuring out how to explain the contradiction.
In summary: I'm not comfortable running around in my underwear. Being in a swimming pool doesn't change that. Am I alone here?
Dear Terri: You most definitely are not ! Almost nobody looks good in skimpy swimwear which, I might add, is not practical for swimming. Anybody out there disagree with us?
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