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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. 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

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 attending a Military ball in about two weeks. I have found a gorgeous red satin dress. It has a low V neck, and a low back, fitted through the bodice, then A-lines down to my ankles. This is the second formal affair I have attended in fourteen years…. so I am kind of out of the loop when it comes to evening etiquette. I have no idea what color shoes I can wear, what jewelry would look good with it, makeup??? Should I steer clear of red lipstick? I’d like to do a smoky/evening eye…. would that look OK? I have auburn hair and brown eyes. I do live in HI, so I do have a summer tan. Any advice would be of great help. I am 32, but I don’t want to look like a young hooker or teen.
-Red Bliss

A. You won’t look like a hooker or teen, the dress sounds just right for the event.  I’m always happy when people choose color instead of black.  Choose gold metallic strappy heels or something strappy with jewels or crystals - you can choose black satin if it has something added to it.  As for jewelry, go for the earrings as your emphasis—colored beads or cubic zirconia or faux diamonds. They don’t have to be big or dangly—just elegant. I like the idea of a soft, smoky eye, just keep the rest of the makeup natural. And if you choose a red lipstick (I’d suggest a gloss or a lip stain + gloss), make sure it works looks good with your skin tone, not the dress.

Steal Eva Longoria’s and Lauren Graham’s red carpet style with these pieces from emitations.com

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Q. We have been invited to my husband’s cousin’s wedding in Connecticut this October.  This is the first time I am stumped about what the 2 girls (age 9 & 13 ) and I should wear.  The reason I am unsure is because we are going to the rehearsal dinner with the family.  Is it  inappropriate to wear the same dress to the dinner and the wedding or should the dinner be more casual with slacks and then a dress to the wedding?  I only have a week and a half to get us all situated so it would be great if you had some advice.

A. Don’t repeat, that’s a big no-no.  The rehearsal dinner is an intimate, special occasion that only certain people are invited to.  Depending on where the dinner is being held will dictate the dress code.  I would suggest that you choose an outfit that is considered a step above casual. It is always safer to look better for an occasion than being dressed down.  Dress better and people will remember your respect for the occasion and sophistication.  I’d choose a simpler dress or a skirt with an appropriate top.  And obviously your dress for the wedding should be dressier than the rehearsal gathering.  As for the girls, they can be more casual if they are attending the rehearsal, but put them in dresses for the wedding day.

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