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Makeup to go with your new gray 'do

Plus: bare legs or tights, and why don't more clothes have pockets?

Ellen Warren

Shopping Adviser

November 16, 2012

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Dear Answer Angel: After many years of coloring my hair, I have let it go gray. I am happy with the result but I am wondering if I should purchase some new makeup to go with my new hair color. Maybe I should be choosing different shades of blush, lipstick, brow color etc. Any suggestions or help would be much appreciated.

— Jeanette

Dear Jeanette: Think of all the money you're saving on hair coloring. Yippee! You can use it to buy new makeup. Gray hair tends to wash out your features, so you're so right to want to put new focus on lips, eyes and brows. But where to shop? How to choose? What to buy?

Department store makeup counters are great places for a free makeover. Usually no appointment is necessary and you do not have to buy any of the products. Get samples to try at home before you buy (or shop for similar ones for less money at the drugstore). Wherever you buy, ask if you can return the products if they don't work for you. Many stores don't broadcast the fact that they have a liberal refund policy for makeup you try and don't like.

If you're happy with your gray, then I'm happy. But unless you have some brutally honest friends, they won't tell you that going gray often adds 10 years to your true age. For some women the trade-off of not having to deal with roots and the hassle of frequent hair coloring is worth it. Not me!

And speaking of hair…

Dear Answer Angel: My biggest problem these days is hair loss. If you have any helpful hints (I won't do Rogaine) — please let me know. I am seriously considering a wig but don't have a clue where to begin.

— Faith

Dear Faith: Wigs are a great solution for hair loss. And there are a lot more women with this problem than you think. Today's wigs, even the lower-price synthetic ones, are so realistic, people can't tell them from your homegrown stuff. An Internet search for wigs and your ZIP code will turn up options for ready-mades you can try on right away.

Your dermatologist should have recommendations for custom-made wigs. Also, cancer centers are all too familiar with this problem, a sad side effect of chemotherapy. Ask there for wig recommendations.

Still not sure you want to go this route? A friend of mine had battled her thinning hair for years, caved in and bought a wig and is thrilled. Nobody can tell it's not the real thing, and she's been collecting compliments galore on her new hairstyle.

Dear Answer Angel: Business dinner at a swanky hotel. Black jersey Ellen Tracy dress with black suede pumps. Bare legs or tights? Please help.

— F.D.

Dear F.D.: Very sheer gray control tops are my go-to hosiery. I like them better than black sheers and they're far superior to bare legs (see below). But you need to be prepared to spend some real money ($8-$10 a pair) to get the sheer quality that really looks classy. I buy mine at Nordstrom and pray for a sale.

Unless you have perfect, unblemished, vein-free, silky legs with no bags, dimples or sags, bare legs are a definite no.

And another question that has legs…

Dear Answer Angel: Is wearing nude hose ever acceptable? What to do if I'm wearing a navy skirt suit in a conservative business environment? My olive skin tans unevenly (mostly on my forehead, arms and hands, but not my legs). Bronzer is not an option, since I would like the body-shaping effect of hosiery. Also, it's really hard to find anything other than black, ivory or nude colors.

— Just "M"

Dear M: Yes, nude hose are acceptable — but not ideal. I still like gray sheers better for almost any occasion (see above). But if the nude hose really match your skin tone and aren't shiny, I think they're OK. Warning: Some fashion experts I respect think I'm wrong on this and have a "never nude" hosiery mantra. But if future queen Kate Middleton can wear them, I think they're good enough for us commoners.

Dear Angel: Please tell me it's OK to hang my cashmere sweaters instead of folding them after each wearing. I promise to use only nicely padded silky hangers.

— Hopeful (and lazy)

Dear Hopeful: Folding your cashmere sweaters is the better way to go — gentler on fibers so the sweaters last longer and don't stretch. But if you pinky swear that the hangers are padded then it's OK to hang them up. No big deal. What's much more important is this: Don't dry clean them. That makes them crunchy and wears them out. Instead, hand wash with baby shampoo in cold water and dry flat. They'll be soft and cuddly. Mmmmmmm.

Reader rant

I sure would like it if clothing designers would include functional pockets in women's clothing, especially pants. Some pants pockets are so skimpy that your keys, money or whatever fall out when you sit down. It is especially annoying when you are in the car or, of course, when using the restroom. Just try to find dress pants that aren't pocketless. Women carry cell phones, keys, tissues, coupons, doggy bags and much, much more. Somehow the manufacturers have managed to put functional pockets in men's clothing. Would it be so hard for them to do the same for women?

— M. J.

Dear M.J.: Absolutely agree. Let's have dresses and skirts, even PJs, with pockets too! As for the pockets you do find in women's clothing, often they're worse than none because they lull you into believing that your stuff is safe there — when it isn't.

Shop, drop, get help: Send your questions — on style, shopping, beauty and makeup — to answerangel @tribune.com.