Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I am middle-aged, average height, a slightly above average weight and I'm fit. I am a "T-shirts and jeans" kind of person most of the time. I am comfortable with my look but believe it may be a bit dated. Can you suggest a few pieces I can add to my fall/winter wardrobe to have a more updated look? Pieces that will pair well with and/or substitute for jeans and T-shirts and are still comfortable?
- Peggy S.
Dear Peggy: A lot of us opt for comfort and believe that jeans are the only way to go. Top them off with a T-shirt that is loose enough that it doesn't bind or require a tuck-in and we go about our day. But you're right. You don't have to give up ease or style to look a little more put together - or, as you put it, "updated." Start with some black pants in a fabric with some stretch, and I'm not talking about skintight leggings. For starters, LEGGINGS AREN'T PANTS! Think Audrey Hepburn in pants to the ankle in boot cut or a slimmer straight leg (not skinny).
Fortunately, manufacturers have finally caught on to the idea that low-rise pants aren't flattering and give almost every woman a muffin top, so you'll find more pants that hit at your waistline in stores when you go shopping. Thank goodness. I'm usually not a big fan of Chico's (although many of you are), but I found the perfect comfortable, black, washable pants there that could be worn on any day. They're pull-on with an elastic waist that doesn't look elastic and were worth the sale price of around $50.
There's no way around it: You're going to have to try on a lot of pants to find what you're looking for, but you can upgrade your look and not sacrifice comfort. The Gap, Old Navy, Athleta and Nordstrom are a few places to try. You can't beat a white button front shirt for an easy update, and today's fabrics really can be no-iron if you hang them to dry. Leopard print is everywhere and a top that fits like a T-shirt in a rayon or silk look can really perk up an outfit. Check out thrift stores for leopard print bargains. Even a leopard scarf, belt or shoe - tennis, flat, bootie, low heel - can amp up your style.
Jackets to the waist in pleather, knit or a heavier weight are a big style booster, and blazers are back in all price ranges. Try a bright color. Wear a fresh white T-shirt under your jacket and you'll be right in style - casual but put together. For more ideas to freshen your look, check out rankandstyle.com.
And what about the guys and their blue jeans...?
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: My girlfriend insists that I can't wear dress shoes with blue jeans. I say they're fine for work at my casual workspace? Who is right?
- Michael J.
Dear Michael: You are. Tell your girlfriend that the jean-and-dress-shoes train has left the station and it's filled with guys like you who wear nice shoes (usually brown, often laced) with their jeans. I took a stroll down a major business street and jeans and brown dress shoes - often with a suit coat, jacket or blazer - was virtually the uniform of the groups of guys I saw. And, yes, tell your girlfriend that many of them were not wearing socks with their nice shoes.