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What's a good skirt length?

Answer Angel answers your questions about boot style, skirts, makeup and more

Ellen Warren

Shopping Adviser

3:00 AM EDT, September 24, 2011

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Dear Answer Angel: Could you please address the issue of skirt length? In magazines and blogs I see a wide variety of lengths and it's hard to know what is truly fashionable. Are there any "don'ts" given a particular age group, height or body type? Also, what length dress/skirt looks best with boots (and what height of boot too)?

— Debra S.

Dear Debra: The most universally flattering skirt length is at or just an inch below the knee. Period. Yes, mid-calf has shown up on runways and it's being pushed hard by an industry that is dying for you to spend money on something new. But those midis often swallow petite women and they're unflattering on most plus-size women or those of us with big legs. So, proceed with caution. Maxi dresses for daytime also are a big trend. It's not a good professional look and pretty easy to give off an I'm-wearing-my-nightie vibe. I'd leave maxis for evening and weekend wear.

As for boots, Susan Swimmer, More magazine's fashion features editor, says the best boot investment is a pair to the knee in black or brown with a 2 1/2 inch heel. Personally, I'm going with a flat riding style boot because heels kill me. But that's just me.

You asked about boot height. It's no problem if there's a gap of leg between the top of the boot and the hem of the skirt, says Swimmer. Wear a dark opaque or textured tight and you're fine. As for the ankle-length booties? Great with opaque tights and a knee-length skirt but only if you have standout legs. Otherwise, to-the-knee boots are ideal for keeping big honking calves under wraps.

Dear Answer Angel: I like to wear makeup. I find that eye shadows and lipsticks all have gloss or metallic in them. I feel that older women (especially me) should not wear this type of makeup as it accentuates wrinkles and looks caked on. However, it is almost impossible to find makeup without gloss or shine or glitter. Can you help by finding products that are matte and would be more appropriate for those of us who like "the good old days."

— Barbara

Dear Barbara: As a general rule, I agree with you that shiny makeup is not becoming, even on young women. Many people disagree with us, including Smashbox makeup artist Matthew Jarrell who told me, "You can be 70 years old and wear great frosted eye shadow. It's all about being comfortable with yourself." He recommends wearing the glossy stuff not directly under the eyebrow but on the brow bone.

Back to your question. Department store brands like Smashbox and Bobbi Brown offer dozens of matte options. And my shopping trips to makeup giants like Sephora (sephora.com) and Ulta (ulta.com) and even the drug store across the street from my office all turned up a variety of non-sparkly makeup for lips, eyes and face.

You might have to search harder than in "the good old days" but it's out there, though I grant you that peering through the packaging you can't always tell if the makeup has shine. One more tip: Many stores will give you a full refund on makeup you've tried and don't like. Ask before you buy.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I have an acquaintance who purchased tickets to a chamber concert this summer with two other women; they regularly attend fine arts events together. The day before the event, she called me and told me one of the women couldn't attend, and knowing that I enjoyed that kind of music, would I like to go with her and the other woman? I accepted.

The following night, during the intermission, she turned to me and said, "You can either pay me in cash or write a check for the ticket, either way is fine. They were $32." Taken aback, I pulled out my checkbook and wrote a check.

Please give me some verbiage to use the next time someone calls and presents the same kind of situation to me. I am a school teacher without a large discretionary income. I love to attend fine arts events, but choose them carefully because of my budget.

— B.H.

Dear B. H.: I've been in the same sticky situation: Thrilled to be offered a "free" ticket only to discover I'm asked for cash to bail out the person holding the extra ticket. Next time, here's how to determine the ground rules first. Say, "I'd love to go but I'm cutting back on my ticket purchases right now." That gives your pal the opportunity to tell you it's a generous freebie — or to peddle the ticket to someone else.

Dear Answer Angel: I wore this striking — and memorable — dress to a recent event and received lots of compliments. I know it's memorable because later than evening I popped into a nearby Starbucks and a woman came over to me and said she remembered seeing me at the event and wanted to let me know she loved my dress.

Fast forward a month later. There is a show I'm going to and was thinking about wearing the dress, but it's a strong possibility I will see some of the same people there that saw me at the last big event. Is that a fashion don't?

— Repeat performance

Dear Repeat: For a film or music star, sure it would be a fashion don't to wear the same thing twice. And why should they since they get it all for free But us mere mortals need to stretch our fashion cash. Wear it again and just consider it another opportunity to get loads of compliments. Another option is to accessorize with a colorful shrug or to-die-for necklace. But you should pat yourself on the back for choosing a stand-out dress instead of a boring basic that blends you into the wallpaper.

Dear Answer Angel: What do you do when you have a hectic life and lots of visiting relatives? We often have social events planned several months in advance and find ourselves with visitors when they occur. They're not always the kinds of things where we could or would include our relatives--a small dinner party, for example, or a rock concert--but also feel guilty traipsing out the door and leaving them alone to fend for themselves. What's the solution?

— Ms. J

Dear Ms. J.: Don't feel guilty. Explain that the date has been set for weeks (or months). Then, rent them a movie, have a pizza delivered to the house and enjoy your evening out.

Shop, drop, get help

You have problems? Who doesn't But here's the difference: You have an angel (with attitude) on your shoulder. Send your questions — on style, shopping, etiquette, beauty — to answerangel@tribune.