Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Could you please comment on men who wear wrinkled, faded, holey blue jeans, well, everywhere in public, including nice cafes and restaurants? I often see men with a paunch overhang that hides their belt buckle, shuffling toward their new-model imported SUV or sports car in faded denims that bag from ankle to knee and sag from back to butt. Perhaps those of us who work from home think it's OK to remain in comfy sweatpants and jeans. The look is not flattering. Could you please offer middle-aged men some figure-flattering alternatives to jeans for casual, everyday use?
— Judy E.
Dear Judy: You asked for a comment: Ewwwww! Too-long baggy butt jeans are a men's wardrobe staple and have been for decades. With more of us working from home, we're also seeing more of them on the street, at the grocery and, as you point out, coffee shops, etc. That's because:
1. We're getting used to (and enjoying) being really comfortable all the time.
2. We're not bothering to change our in-house uniforms very often, even when we leave the house.
This is true for both men and women. (I'd be a hypocrite to scold anybody for wearing sweats or baggy jeans around the house since I do it all the time.) So, some alternatives for men and women who want to be comfortable but look a bit more put together? Joggers. Think of these as "refined" sweatpants. Lighter (therefore more flattering) fabric than sweatpants with a slightly slimmer — not clingy — silhouette. They taper at the leg and usually have elastic at the ankle and often have a drawstring waist. They come not only in knit fabrics but cotton (often khaki), linen and other dressier fabrics.
You can wear them with T-shirts, Oxford button downs or collared polo shirts. Sure you'll see them styled with hoodies and sweatshirts, but they also look great with bomber jackets, track jackets, denim jackets and, yes, even blazers or lightweight work jackets — boxy or slightly fitted.
What about shoes? I'm not a fan of women wearing heels with these pants, but boots, sandals and, of course, sneakers — low and high cut — look great for both men and women. Even loafers without socks can work. (By the way, I've seen men and women wearing these pants mid-calf and it's not a good look.) Where to buy joggers? Where not to buy them. You'll find them at virtually any store that sells clothing, at prices from $10 up to the hundreds.
Another option: Real pants, cotton or cotton blend (aka chinos or khakis), can be almost as comfortable as those baggy jeans.
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I have an issue related to shopping for pants and jeans. I am a moderately built 50-something with a little extra around the middle. I struggle to find pants or jeans that are not "skinny" and ankle length. Those skinnies are not flattering or comfortable. Would love some suggestions for pants and jeans for both a casual work environment and to wear outside work.
— Kathy O.
Dear Kathy: What you want is boot-cut or straight-leg jeans and pants. Fortunately, for those of us who'd prefer not to cut off our circulation with skinnies, manufacturers are offering lots of versions that address our preferences. Many come in styles that actually sit at the waist for the vast majority of women who don't want low-rise pants that are guaranteed to create a muffin top. Levi's (levi.com), L.L. Bean (llbean.com), Uniqlo (uniqlo.com), Macy's (macys.com), Walmart (walmart.com) and Ann Taylor (anntaylor.com) are just a few of the places that can suit your needs. And don't rule out sweatpants which, in lighter fabrics with a boot or straight leg cut, can be comfortable and flattering for working from home, walking the dog and running to the drugstore.
Thanks to all the readers who offered suggestions for those of us who struggle with looking good in a face mask and miss lipstick to brighten our faces in these dreary times (and thought I was nuts to wear lipstick under my mask ... just because).
Bindy B. writes: "For Judy F. and others who feel washed out without lipstick, I strongly suggest window masks, available inexpensively and in a variety of colors from Amazon. They are hand washable and dryable, with a suggested inside drop of dish soap (thoroughly smeared around until dry, but not rinsed off) to avoid fogging up, especially in cold weather (that's a good tip for eyeglasses while wearing masks, too). Though window masks are primarily so hard of hearing people can read one's lips, they permit lipstick and make a world of difference, just what Judy F. wants!"
From Barb: "For reader Judy F. who thought that with a mask on she looked washed out ... an obvious answer would be to choose masks in colors that make her look (and feel) bright!"
Juno suggests: "There are companies that you can Google that make masks that are a print of our smile. You just have to send a picture."