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Answer Angel: Navigating the birthday gift minefield

By Ellen Warren, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Fashion Daily News

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: My daughter's birthday is coming up and I want to give her a gift of cash (about $500) so she can go clothes shopping. She is a beautiful young woman but she has poor taste and buys clothes that don't fit properly. Laundry is another issue - don't get me started. She has a new job and it would be great if she had about five outfits that she can mix and match. Any ideas on how to present this to her without offending her?

- Mommala

Dear Mommala: Department stores like Macy's, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's offer free appointments with on-staff personal shoppers for just this kind of situation. Book an appointment online on the store's website to accompany that very generous gift. You could turn it into a true mother-daughter outing if she's willing. If that's not her kind of thing suggest she take a girlfriend along, which might keep your daughter's worst instincts to a minimum. Make sure the shopper knows the budget and that your daughter is looking for work clothes with pieces that will mix and match to get the most outfits for your money. You can also find personal shoppers/stylists online, although they're not cheap and your $500 won't go very far. As for your question on how to avoid offending your daughter, just don't mention her bad taste and the poor fit of her current wardrobe.

Another birthday gift dilemma ...

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I send a birthday gift every year to my old college friend and every year I am disappointed that I never hear ANYTHING back from her. A thank you would be nice but ... crickets. This has been going on for years. Any ideas on how I can get the friend - she is a good friend except for this - to at least give me a simple thanks.

- Ms. Smith (not my real name)


Dear Ms. Smith: You have two options: 1. Stop sending the gifts. 2. Quit beefing about the no-thank-you girlfriend. After years of the same behavior, I don't think your friend is going to change. Good friends are hard to find so if you choose option 1, don't cut her off completely. Instead of a gift, send a nice card.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Target used to sell my favorite layering tank top but they have discontinued the brand. I've searched for it online in vain. Can you recommend any good solid layering tank tops for women that are soft and stretchy, not binding?

- Mary R.

Dear Mary: Uniqlo ( has an excellent selection. My favorites are the Heattech and Airism. You can buy them with or without built-in bras. Also look at L. L. Bean (, Lands' End ( and Eddie Bauer (


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