Answer Angel

Finding the way around the right fit

Your questions answered on hard-to-fit sizes, cheap substitutes for pricey makeup, men's brown shoes with dark suits and pants, cracked painful heels

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The right fit

The right fit (Elaine Melko illustration for the Tribune)

It's just not fair! Not every woman is a perfect size 8. For those of us whose shapes and sizes are a little out of the mainstream, finding fashionable clothing is not only a chore but a lifelong search.

Three different women, three different sizes, three different frustrations. …

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Why are department stores and manufacturers doing away with petite sizes? There are still plenty of short women like me (5-foot-2). Pants are a particular problem.

— Shelley F.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: For years I have been bugged by the plus sizes having really long arms. We might be fat (curvy?) but we're not giants. Just because our bodies are big does not mean our arms are proportionately longer. I have had to return so many items because of this.

— Laurie

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: My 14-year-old granddaughter is 5-foot-11 and very thin. Where can I take her shopping to find sharp clothes for tall teenagers? She is in high school, and everything looks too short for her. All the popular teenage stores are geared for short girls. Online is not helpful because she wants to try on the clothes. Help!

— Grandma S.

Dear All: It saddens me to tell you that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to your very legitimate needs. Anybody who is bigger, smaller, taller or shorter than what manufacturers and retailers think is "average" will continue to be angered and frustrated by the poor selection in stores. The Internet is your salvation, but that's not much comfort for those of us who want to try things on and not hassle with returning items by mail.

My plus-size friends swear by Lord & Taylor stores. Some petites I know shop in the boys department for casual wear. Nordstrom still has petite departments in all its stores except four (three in Southern California, one in Salt Lake City), and many Nordstrom Racks have petites too.

And the day Victoria's Secret stocked extra-long yoga pants online (victoriassecret.com), a 6-foot-3 woman I know bought three pairs. Many tall women were devastated when Long Tall Sally closed most of its U.S. stores, but a new one will open soon in Chicago (the other two are in Detroit and the Mall of America outside Minneapolis), and the online offerings are about as good as it gets (longtallsally.com).

For the many women who can't find the fit they want even online, my advice is to swallow hard and pay the tailor for alterations, because this is not a fight you'll win with clothing manufacturers. One suggestion: Because skinny jeans and boots are the style, petite and tall women can stuff their too short/long jeans in the boots and fake it.

Grandma, I especially feel for your tall granddaughter who can't find teen fashions in stores. That is not going to change, so when you take her shopping concentrate on jewelry, purses, shoes, accessories. Online, she will find talls at Old Navy (oldnavy.com), Gap (gap.com) and Banana Republic (bananarepublic.com) among others. Thetallstreetjournal.com has a tall clothes forum, and the same goes for tallwomen.org/clothes/usa.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen:

Love it when you compare really expensive designer makeup with comparable cheaper (drugstore) versions. So before I shell out $41 for Yves St. Laurent Touche Eclat, do you have something comparable from another brand that is as good and cheaper ? Or is the Yves St. Laurent as good as the magazine makeup experts all say it is?

— Diane M.

Dear Diane: Like you, I've read the magazine writers' rapturous praise of the Yves St. Laurent "radiance boosting highlighter" (yslbeautyus.com and department stores). Any product that claims to "capture eight hours sleep with the click of a pen" is pretty appealing. So, I did try it out. Then I compared it with the drugstore $7.99 Maybelline Dream Lumi Touch (maybelline.com, drugstores). I say go with the cheap stuff. There's definitely not $33 worth of difference (although the $$$$ YSL comes in twice as many colors — 12 — as the Maybelline). So, before spending a fortune on the products that magazine writers tout, scout out alternatives by searching online for the expensive stuff's "drugstore dupe." Makeup bloggers and websites have done the work for you.

Angelic Readers

I had no idea that so many readers endure dry, rough, cracked heels. I recently wrote about some creams that could help (Kerasal, Heel Tastic), and it turns out there are fellow sufferers who are passionate about other solutions they've found. Here are their recommendations, all of which are available at amazon.com and many are in drugstores too: Miracle Heel Stick (Joan K.); Johnson & Johnson First Aid Cream (Chris); Footlogix (Laurie B.); Origins' Reinventing the Heel (Susan); Blue Goo Cracked Heel (anonymous); Lamisil (Sue); Amlactin (Dorothy D., Roe, Joanne: "feet smooth as a baby's bottom"); Stridex pads followed by Vaseline (Joyce W.); O'Keeffe's Healthy Feet (Claudia W., Daria); Callex Foot Moisturizer (Sharon H.); 220 grit B-weight sandpaper (!) followed by Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Foot Cream (Larry S.).

Reader Rant

Can I complain about men in brown shoes? Brown shoes do not go with everything. They can look great when a shirt, tie or sweater picks up the warm tones but just look wrong when the rest is all blacks, grays and blues (except for jeans). Drives me crazy!

— Kevin S.

Dear Kevin: I respectfully disagree. I think brown shoes can look modern with a dark suit. I sent your rant along to my co-worker David Syrek, one of the most savvy men's fashion experts I know: "A brown shoe softens a dressy look, allowing you to wear a suit but have a more casual look. That's an option that men need. Brown shoes look great with a navy suit — it's the preferred color combo. They also look great with charcoal gray. I also think that it plays into the mismatched look that is in right now." In today's fashion there are no rules, so if you hate the look, Kevin, stick with your black shoes!

Shop, drop, get help

Send your rants and questions — on style, shopping, fashion, makeup and beauty — to answerangel@tribune.com.

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