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Q. I have been looking for the perfect bag for quite a while. The problem is when I find one I like, it’s always very expensive. I would like to find a bag that I can use everyday: medium sized, slouchy, over the shoulder, and preferably brown. I would like to try to spend less than $200, if it’s possible. Any suggestions?

A. Thanks for the challenge, this one was fun! We found a slew of brown slouchy everyday bags for you, check them out below. By the way, you need not feel boxed in by brown - a dark red or even dark purple offers the same neutral versatility but with a bit more “pop”.

Q. As the days get colder and colder here, I have been strongly considering purchasing a jacket/coat to wear for the rest of fall, before hardcore snow-weather sets in. My two issues are style and price range. I am on the short side (5’3”-ish) and the top half of my body is heavier than the bottom half. I’ve tried pea coats and other double-breasted styles in the past and they made me look heavier. I’ve considered trench coats, but they seem to make me look even shorter and pudgier. Given my grad student budget and the failing economy, I would like to stay within a price range of $50 or under, though $40 and under would be ideal. Any suggestions?

A. You should definitely avoid double breasted style, as they will not only make you look wider, but shorter as well. Other styles to avoid include long coats and belted coats that would accentuate a thick middle. Now that we’ve gotten what you shouldn’t wear out of the way, let’s focus on what styles will flatter you most. Your best bet is to look for coats that hit just above your knee with an empire waist to create the illusion of height. Choose a semi-fitted single breasted style to create a slim silhouette while avoiding adding unnecessary bulk.

Now that you know what kind of coat to look for, let’s address your price. A fall coat that looks great can be tough to find for under $50. In fact, we found only two in your price range and style (see below). Consider spending just a bit more - a coat that fits great in a classic style will be worn for many years and is a great investment.

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Annabelle Linley 3Q Coat, $7.99 at forever21.com; Wool Coat, $39.80 at forever21.com; Wool-Blend Duffle Coats, $69.50 at oldnavy.com

Q. For Christmas, I will be spending a week with my boyfriend and his family in Philadelphia, which is wonderful except for the fact that I’m from Texas and the coldest it ever gets around here is about 60°! What can I wear that will be super cute but still allow me to stay warm?! Oh, and of course because of the bag restrictions I can’t really pack a ton of stuff because of the weight. Every day will be pretty casual except for the night of the Christmas party… Ahhh… I have no idea… PLEASE HELP!

A. The great news is, you can create a week’s worth of outfits with just a few key additions to items you likely already own. Let’s start with your casual attire: the idea is to impress without looking like you are trying too hard. Pack a couple pairs of your favorite jeans and invest in a few chic and cozy sweaters, including a few cardigans that you can layer over some tanks or tees from your closet. Add a pair of ankle boots (which you can easily wear in Texas with jeans or dresses) in a color that works with all of your outfits and some simple but striking jewelry and you’re good to go. Here are 2 casual looks incorporating jeans to give you ideas (both from jcrew.com):


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Without knowing how dressy your Christmas party is, your best bet is to pack a cute dress (perhaps something you already own), a pair of tights, some glamorous heels and great jewelry. If your dress is short sleeved or sleeveless (this is perfectly ok by the way, even if the weather is cool), then pack a cashmere cardigan or wrap to ward off the chill.

The only other item you’ll need to pack is a chic but warm coat that easily transitions from day to evening.


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dress: Flutter-sleeve dress, $150 at bananarepublic.com; coat: GUESS by Marciano Barrel Shape Coat, $148 at nordstrom.com

Q. Would a black pencil skirt be appropriate to be incorporated into a holiday party outfit? Any ideas for completing the outfit?

A. You can absolutely dress up your black pencil skirt for a holiday party or evening out, it’s a great way to get mileage out of this classic work piece. Add a dressy top, sparkly accessories and glam shoes and you’re ready to go. Here are two ideas to get you started (click on each item for purchasing info):

Q. I’m looking for a hooded toggle jacket for this winter - do you have any suggestions?

A. But of course! We love this casual chic trend also. And the best part is, you don’t have to spend a fortune. Here are some affordable options for you:

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