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Q. You always have wonderful advice.  I am attending a wedding in MI.  I am planning to wear a black satin dress with a black lace overlay.  The dress is knee length and has cap sleeves.  I can always do black hose and black shoes but I like to be a little more fun.  What do you think about red or an animal print?  And what kind of hose or bare legs?   Could I do silver?  I am not as young and thin as I used to be, I am also fair skinned.  I just did not know if bare legs would still be ok for me.
- Seeking Fun and Festive

A. I always opt for bare legs when I can get away with it.  Why not moisturize your legs with a lotion that has a bit of shimmer or glow to add a bit of color to a pale leg?  If you feel more comfortable with hosiery, then wear black sheer hosiery.   There are some new styles with a black back seam that are better than your average sheer hosiery, or choose a subtle black pattern on sheer.

As for shoes, you seem to have the right idea—skip animal print with the lace—a bit much.  Look for black patent (a huge trend this season and so festive and fun), or metallic in either silver or gold.  You may also find a black heel in velvet or satin that has lace or crystal embellishments.

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left to right: Michael Kors Leg Shine, $32 at sephora.com; Steven by Steve Madden ‘Giddie’ Pump, $98.95 at nordstrom.com; Velvet Bow Pump, $34 at newport-news.com

(for more party shoes, check out our new Holiday Hot List style recipe)

Q. Living in New York, I am surrounded by stylish women. I’d like to adopt some of the popular styles, such as jeans tucked into boots and pencil skirts with heels, but I have a, shall we say, ample lower half and I’m not sure I can pull it off. Can pear-shaped girls wear those styles? Any advice on how to make it work?
-Curvy in NYC 

100506 Ashlee 200X400A. There are ways to make those trends look good on a curvy shape. If you’d like to sport jeans tucked into boots, look for a pair of jeans that are slimmer cut towards the ankle. BUT here’s the deal—these jeans are specifically to be worn with boots and a knit top or sweater that covers the hips or gathers around the hips.  Or wear a longer style button down that isn’t boxy in cut and wear it untucked and add a fitted vest.  You want to balance the top half with your bottom half without drawing too much attention to your curvy hips and thighs.  Ashlee Simpson’s look shown here would look great on a curvier girl.

As for the pencil skirt, there are styles that are cut straight rather than fitted.  While a-line skirts are truly best for just about everyone’s shape, particularly curvy girls, if you wish to try out the pencil skirt trend, look for fabrics that hug, slim and smooth your figure.  And don’t hesitate to add a little help underneath!  We’re big fans of Donna Karan’s Body Perfect shapewear pieces and Spanx undergarments since they are thin, comfortable and slim and smooth out all those imperfections.

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Both of these pencil skirt options from newport-news.com offer a figure flattering silhouette with added control properties that smooth and slim your shape. left to right: Fit & flare skirt (also available in plus sizes), $39 and Control pencil skirt, $39

Ashlee Simpson photo via InStyle

Q. I am attending my company Christmas party in downtown Dallas at the Fairmont Hotel.  The attire states Cowboy Cocktail (what does this mean?) and my husband and I are definitely not into the Cowboy thing.  What would be appropriate to wear?  Also my husband is in the Navy - is one of his dress uniforms appropriate attire?
-Not on the Range

A. Alright, so you don’t want to put on a cowboy hat and boots, but you can still get dressed up and add one piece to your outfit so you’re not snubbing the rest of the crowd.  Wear something you can add and take off after being at the party for 30 minutes or so. Why not add a plaid kerchief or bandana tied around your neck?  It’s something small and simple. I’d suggest that your husband wear a nice suit or sport jacket and pants in lieu of one of his Navy dress uniforms. Enjoy the party and be sure to keep your “not into the cowboy thing” to yourself, since you may inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings who planned the party.

Q. I am getting married in New York City in June. The wedding is black tie, but I’m struggling with picking a bridesmaids’ color. Neither me nor my fiance have “favorite” colors. In addition to having to be tea-length or longer, two of my bridesmaids are blonde and tan, and the other two are dark-haired and fair. To complicate things, one will also be in her last trimester of pregnancy! 
-Color Uncoordinated

A. Don’t worry, you don’t have to use a favorite color for the bridesmaid dresses.  The greatest gift you can give to your bridesmaids is to choose a simple color in an elegant, simple design that perhaps, cross your fingers, they can actually wear again.

79769 Bk0001Start with shopping online at sites like jcrew.com, shopdress.com and edressme.com and visit several local shops and showrooms in the city that design bridesmaid dresses like Serafina, Thread and CK Bradley. Also, what colors are the groomsmen wearing?  Are they wearing suits or classic tuxes?  Will they be wearing a colored tie, which you can also play off the bridesmaid’s dresses? And what are the colors for the wedding reception and flowers? This may help you make your decision.

Ask your bridesmaids for suggestions as well.  Plus, you can always make it easy and choose black.  Every woman should own a great little black dress. And one last tip, don’t assume that each of your bridesmaids has to wear the same style dress.  Choose a color, fabric and, depending on each girl’s body shapes, perhaps offer 2 or more styles or at least offer an empire waist option for your pregnant friend.

shown here, the Holly silk faille dress from jcrew.com ($295) comes in several colors and is flattering on many figures

Q. I am attending an engagement party for some friends in Philadelphia in two weeks. I just got a great black halter from Black House/White Market that comes up to a collar neck and has that “subtly sexy Victorian” look. Is it appropriate to wear a halter at this time of year (I would wear it with slacks and boots), and if so, what would you recommend wearing over it? The high neck makes it a little tricky.
-Bare Shoulders

A. The simple answer-yes you can wear your halter top to the party, assuming you won’t be spending time outdoors. And bring along a cashmere wrap to keep your shoulders warm if the temps indoors are slightly chilly.

The longer answer is to consider buying a shortened cardigan that you can wear open, or invest in a fitted dressy jacket that you can wear for several years with dresses, skirts, even jeans and to this party.

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left to right: Nanette Lepore Bonnies Cropped Cardigan, $190 at saks.com; Halogen Jacquard Jacket, $128 at nordstrom.com; Juicy Couture Belted Velvet Jacket, $295 at nordstrom.com

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