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Q. This may not be your bailiwick because it is a hybrid question that crosses over from style to relationship.  I have been seeing a woman for about a year now.  Due to the disparity in our ages (23 yrs.), I refuse to be involved more than just dating and am clear about my availability.  When she travels, she always brings me a little something.  I was in Santa Fe on business and brought her an inexpensive liquid silver necklace ($60).  You would have thought that I brought her a 3k diamond.  Now I need to get her something for her birthday (27th), I would like to get her something nice, preferably jewelry, but don’t want to send any message other than I enjoy her company.
-Guy and Younger Girl

A. Having had romance, love, liars and cheats, I can take on the role of style and relationship expertise for your answer. I think your soon-to-be 27 year old has been sticking around believing and hoping that your “dating” has turned into more of a commitment. While you made it clear early in your dating that you did not want a relationship due to your age difference, she probably needs a refresher course. She’s probably a great girl who has treated you well and thinks of you often, as is obvious with her consistent gift giving. But it is apparent that you are only offering her morsels of attention when she deserves a full banquet.

Perhaps you give her a grand gift like sending her and a friend off on an all expense paid spa weekend (spafinder.com) and let her know that you are setting her free to find someone closer in age that will give her a chance at true love, perhaps marriage, and maybe a family.  A man that wants to travel the world with her or plant a garden and barbeque in the backyard they share. A weekend away with a friend will give her a chance to vent, release and relax without a bill at the end. She’ll walk away with clean skin, polished nails and a pampered body to start anew. Pair the gift with a heartfelt note about her best qualities and how lucky you have been to know her.

If you are direct with your “only dating on your availability” and she still chooses to stay, then I presume you’ve also made it clear that when a good man comes along and asks her on a date, she should go since you have a no-strings attached affair.

No spa grand gift? Don’t wimp out and buy a gift that carries no meaning or barely cost you a hundred bucks. Does she have a lovely apartment or home? Why not choose photographic artwork and have it framed to add décor to her home. Jewelry is always a safe and memorable gift, but this time, choose real gold in a style that is simple and sophisticated. Or how about a stunning pair of expensive heels that she’s been coveting but would never fork over the cash for. Get her an appointment with a personal shopper at a department store (it’s free) and give her a gift card for $500 or more bucks to spend with the help of the personal shopper so she can get the benefits of the shopper’s talents of finding what she wants in her size.  As long as you are honest, your gift can be exuberant, lovely, and expressive in its meaning that you appreciate her.

Some of my favorites:

UNDER $200

Satya Jewelry aquamarine relief lotus necklace18k Gold Circle Pendant,Kevia Tulip Shaped Rococo Hoop Earrings
1. Satya Jewelry aquamarine relief lotus necklace, $158 at satyajewelry.com
2. 18k Gold Circle Pendant, $150 at bluenile.com
3. Kevia Tulip Shaped Rococo Hoop Earrings, $138 at blueluxe.com

$200-$300

Tiffini Dooris Luna NecklaceJulie Sandlau Mint Crystal and Cubic Zirconia Circle EarringsJulie Sandlau Champagne Zirconia Circular Chandelier Earrings
4. Tiffini Dooris Luna Necklace, $228 at tiffinidooris.com
5. Julie Sandlau Mint Crystal and Cubic Zirconia Circle Earrings, $224 at blueluxe.com
6. Julie Sandlau Champagne Zirconia Circular Chandelier Earrings, $211 at blueluxe.com

$300 & UP

Anna Beck Large Teardrop Pendant NecklaceQuinn's Tulip Small Disc Diamond Earrings18K Gold Ginko Leaf Pendants by DeanBurke
5. Anna Beck Large Teardrop Pendant Necklace, $398 at nordstrom.com
6. Quinn’s Tulip Small Disc Diamond Earrings, $413 at blueluxe.com
7. 18K Gold Ginko Leaf Pendants by DeanBurke, $300 at vivre.com

Q. Hi Alison, love your site!  I am pregnant with twins and need to find a good maternity coat. Since I will only be wearing it for one season, I would ideally like to find one coat that I can wear to work (casual office), out to dinner and on weekends.  Oh, and I don’t want to spend a fortune. Can you help?
-Baby on Board

A. So I took on this search for affordable maternity coats with full enthusiasm and after an hour passed, my search started losing steam. This is a niche market that has not been fully realized. Do maternity designers think when you get bigger you stay warmer? Even at 30 degrees?  I checked countless sites and while the tops, bottoms and dresses are darling and numerous, the choices of coats seem very finite.  So, while I have options, your search should be for empire, swing, and trapeze style coats with a hem that falls just above or below your knee to give you enough coverage over your belly and the opportunity to wear the coat with everything from jeans to skirts to dresses. And look for wool or wool blends for the most warmth. Keep the color neutral so it will match with more items in your wardrobe and you won’t feel like a walking preggers billboard. While I know you will have a big belly, you may wish to try on some regular style coats in a larger size in those same styles of empire, swing and trapeze to compare the hems and fit.

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1. Tweed Coat, $325 at apeainthepod.com
2. long wool coat, $148 at mimimaternity.com
3. LL Collezioni Baby Doll Swing Coat, $299 at bloomingdales.com
4. wool cashmere coat, $295 at destinationmaternity.com

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5. Maternity Frost Free Belted Anorak, $78 at oldnavy.com
6. Wool wrap coat, $125 at gap.com
7.  Gallery Wool Blend Trapeze Coat, $168 at nordstrom.com
8. wool dressmaker coat, $69.98 at motherhood.com
9. double-breasted long coat, $158 at mimimaternity.com

Untitled1-1Q. I am a bridesmaid in an upcoming beach wedding that the chosen colors are fuschia and turquoise.  I have to say, the bride picked out a hot little fuschia halter dress for the bridesmaid dresses.  But, my dilemma is the shoes and the jewelry.  First of all, what color shoes would you suggest?  I’m thinking more of a silver sandal or very low heel.  Second of all, they just sent the picture of the jewelry (see attached) and the turquoise large teardrop pendant and earrings are supposed to be for me.  Is it just me, or is this a hideous ensemble?

-Jewelry Uncertain

A. Not loving the jewelry choices, especially the “rough” cut combination. Without seeing the dress, it’s difficult to choose many options for you that may work for the dress. I am not a fan of wearing matching earrings and necklace. I think it’s boring and skips an opportunity to express your style and take a chance. I do not know how many bridesmaids are in the wedding party, but as I’ve said in past Ask Alison columns, I am not in favor of making the bridesmaids into paper cut-outs and dressing them the same from head to toe.  It can become costly to the bridesmaids to buy the dress, the jewelry, the shoes, etc. that are the choices of the bride.  Unless the bridesmaids are clueless about style, I believe in letting them make a few choices in their attire, whether it be shoes, jewelry or both. And, of course, with the help of digital cameras and computers, friends can send photos to the bride to let her know what they intend to pair with the dress to get final approval.

With that in mind, I would suggest keeping jewelry delicate for a beach wedding. A thin silver or gold necklace with a charm or small bead would be lovely - and then add earrings. As for your feet, keep to flat silver or gold sandals since you’ll be in the sand. If the reception moves indoors or to a real dance floor, you can bring along heels to slip into.

Neck 3 Lightgreen LEar Gold Blueballs LNeck 7N24 Big

some beachy suggestions:

1. Lisa Goodwin Wishful Linking Necklace Chalcedony/Optimism, $85 at maxandchloe.com
2. Lisa Stewart Hoop Earrings with Wrapped Turquoise, $180 at maxandchloe.com
3. Allison Daniel Large Starfish Necklace, $8 at allisondanieldesigns.com

Hoops PearlNeck Wishbone L

4. Haley M Endless Pearl Hoops, $55 at haleym.com
5. Zoe Chicco Silver Wishbone Necklace, $75 at maxandchloe.com

Q. What a fantastic site!  I’m attending a friend’s engagement party in late Oct.  It will be held in the afternoon at a country club.  I was planning to wear a shawl collared white shirt with a wrap tie (new at Ann Taylor), a black pencil skirt with some small pleats in the back and some awesome Stuart Weitzman peep toe pumps in a deep red/burgundy patent leather.  My sister tells me I would look like the staff and I shouldn’t wear the black and white.  Help?  I thought I could pull it off with killer shoes!  BLACK AND WHITE?
-Non-Staff

A. You can definitely pull it off with killer heels and add a multi strand or chunky stand out necklace or a big cuff to add to the punch of the outfit.

CC Skye Enamel Cuff BraceletMod hammered cuffResin pyramid bangle

Circle link necklaceFloral triple-strand necklace

1. CC Skye Enamel Cuff Bracelet, $202 at pinkmascara.com
2. Mod hammered cuff, $32 at bananarepublic.com
3. Resin pyramid bangle, $24 at bananarepublic.com
4. Circle link necklace, $38 at bananarepublic.com
5. Floral triple-strand necklace, $88 at bananarepublic.com

Q. My weight has gone up & down over the years, so as you can imagine finding clothes that fit is a problem. However, I have recently joined a gym as I am determined to lose 35 lbs. In addition to joining, I have a personal trainer for the next three months. It wasn’t so hard to find my workout clothes & sports bras, but my bottom is a challenge. I have always used "Barely There" intimates, but since I have a belly & have gained weight, they really don’t support it.

I have two questions: What kind of panties are best for working out? How can I find a perfect fit that will also be comfortable for everyday wear?
-Losin’ It

A.  High five to you for your determination to lose the weight! Look for a higher cut brief or thong in a microfiber fabric to help wick away moisture and help flatten your tummy. Skip shapewear pieces when you’re working out so you can focus on pulling in your tummy all on your own and be comfortable.  These panties can also be worn under your everyday clothes:

Moving Comfort Micro ThongMoving Comfort Seamless ThongSpeed Boy Short,

1. Moving Comfort Micro Thong, $15 at activasports.com
2. Moving Comfort Seamless Thong, $15 at activasports.com
3. Speed Boy Short, $17.99 at underarmour.com (Check out other styles from underarmour.com for panties that wick moisture and offer an abrasion, rub free workout.)

Warner's Without A Stitch Hi-Cut Brief Jockey No Panty Line Promise Hip Brief Barelythere Flawless Fit Microfiber Hi-Cut Brief

4.  Warner’s Without A Stitch Hi-Cut Brief, $7.60 at barenecessities.com
5.  Jockey No Panty Line Promise Hip Brief, $8.50 at barenecessities.com
6.  Barelythere Flawless Fit Microfiber Hi-Cut Brief, $7.20 at barenecessities.com

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