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Q. I read your column regularly and think you have great advice which is why I hope you can help me out.  I am a pasty Swede who lives in the Midwest with skin the color of snow and light hair and eyes to match. Black and white colored tops are too harsh for my skin tone and make me look even more ghostly. Can you suggest some tops that would be flattering to my pale skin tone?  Best of all would be tops that flatter my skin tone while also cinching in at my waist. 
- Skin Like Snow

A. Skip the blacks and pastels and embrace color.  Choose colors like green, deep pink, plum, ink blue and even berry tones.  These colors will either add a bit of color to your skin tone or flatter your ivory skin and light hair to make it a striking contrast.  I’ve picked out a few suggestions of tops that will flatter your shape and help brighten your pale look:

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left to right from nordstrom.com: Rachel Pally Caftan Top. $176; C&C ‘Brooke’ Empire Tunic, $88; Matty M Balloon Sleeve Knit Tunic, $68; C&C ‘Pandora Dot’ Top, $68

Little Black Dress

Q. I have a good friend’s wedding to go to in March, and I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to invest in a perfect little black dress. I’d like some ideas for dresses that are under $250 (I know I said “invest,” but I’m a girl on a budget!)  I’m interested in a dress that is classic and stylish and will be wearable for years to come to all sorts of events. I am also looking for a dress that will be flattering and slimming, as I’ve recently put on a little weight and am self-conscious of it (I’m 5’9“ and about a size 6-8). I’d really appreciate your help! You always seem to know the perfect thing to wear.
-LBD Classic

A. I recently shot a little black dress story and fell for many styles.  Here’s a few that fit your budget and will still be stylish five years from now.

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left to right, all available at nordstrom.com: Maggy London Beaded Matte Jersey Halter Dress ($138), Anne Klein Dress V-Neck Chiffon Dress ($192), Bianca Nero Bead Chiffon Dress ($272), Velvet Torch Shantung Tube Dress ($62). Also, check out bluefly.com for a huge variety of little black dresses.

Q. I’m so glad your website turned up in my Google search! I took your advice (archive) over the weekend for Date #2 to a football game. Date #3 is dinner at my date’s house. He is cooking and I’ll be bringing the wine and myself. This is a great opportunity to see what he is like - his style, his apartment, etc. It’s time for me to show him my casual, cute, funky side.  What should I wear? I am 31 and I like to dress classically with something funky mixed in - like jewelry or fun shoes. I usually can pick out outfits but with this date, I am nervous and can’t think straight!
-Great Date

A. Since it‘s about being cute and casual, go for items in your wardrobe that you can get comfortable in.  For example, clothes that you can be cozy on the couch while you’re spending hours talking and enjoying wine.  Wear dark jeans and a great camisole and wrap sweater or a great v-neck fitted cashmere sweater with velvet pants and ballet flats.  Perhaps the flats are patent leather or animal print. And don’t wear too many layers since you don’t want to get overheated and give the wrong impression if you need to take something off. And since your signature seems to be the jewelry, wear one of your favorite necklaces or pair of earrings, but nothing too chunky or oversized.  Keep your look pretty and feminine. And bring along a great bottle of wine and perhaps a mini pie or fresh baked cookies for dessert.

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 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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