Some growing pains hard to witness

Mothers who dress like their daughters and other fashion dilemmas

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 Moms and daughters: The closet divide

Moms and daughters: The closet divide (Illustration for the Tribune by Elaine Melko)

Dear Answer Angel: I've been seeing a lot more of my pet peeve: women dressing like their daughters. I think it's creepy for the moms to wear outfits that you might expect to see on their teen — or even preteen — daughters. Do you have any strong feelings or guidance for mother misfits? Or am I just a crank?

Just Asking

Dear Just Asking: Misfit is precisely the right word. You're not a crank. And neither am I! The get-ups I see on the street are real eyepoppers. And among the worst offenders are the women who dress in clothes that (might) work for their daughters. We're talking too tight, too short, too skimpy, too see-through, too trendy and too girlie (bows, head-to-toe pink). There are plenty of styles in stores now — halter tops, short shorts, crazy-high stilettos, towering platforms, skintight leggings — that don't flatter most women, young or old. You ask if I have strong feelings? Ummm, yes!!

As for guidance for women who are inclined to dress inappropriately like their daughters? I'm not optimistic, but here goes:

•If you have to ask, "Is this too young for me?" — it is.

•Dial it down. For instance, ditch the black micro mini and try a black pencil skirt just above the knee.

•Cover up: A cami peeking out of a low-cut blouse or T-shirt is way sexier than swaths of aging flesh.

•A full-length mirror and a brutally honest best friend can help.

Dear Answer Angel: What is the proper footwear for a maxi dress? How long are they supposed to be? I've seen them so long that the wearer is walking on the dress.

A.T.

Dear A.T.: There are a couple of good shoe options for the maxi. Try a flat (ballet, plain or embellished), the more colorful the better. Or choose a sandal or wedge. What you don't want to do is throw off your proportions with a heel, especially not a stiletto or dressy platform. This is not a ball gown, after all. For the dress length, walking on your dress is never a good idea. (Ask Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence about that!) The hem dragging on the ground is a bad look, too, and a sure way to collect dirt and grime. Singularly unattractive and a little gross! The ideal length is the same as a pair of trousers or jeans: just off the ground. Bear that in mind when you're having the dress hemmed, or take the dress with you when buying shoes.

Dear Answer Angel: I have a question about the recent trend of wearing a belt a little above the waist. Mrs. Obama's lovely coat for the inauguration was adorned with a belt that seemed to be a few inches above her waist. And I see photos in catalogs of women wearing sweaters that are belted higher than the waist. How can one wear this style without sewing belt loops on a sweater (which I would not want to do)? The belt always falls on me.

J.W.

Dear J.W.: Don't you wish that all of us could look as great in clothes as the first lady? I digress. I think the ability to wear a belt high on the waist — above the waist, really, in Michelle Obama's case — has a lot to do with anatomy. Some women are just naturally high-waisted. To achieve the effect you're seeking, belt it tightly at the point you want it to stay. If that makes the belt too small for your natural waist, you'll have better luck keeping it up there!

And now … readers leap in to help answer questions and complaints from earlier Angel letter writers:

Joyce writes: The Reader Rant from Growling Grace struck a familiar chord. (Grace complained you have to be a contortionist to adjust bra straps, because it's impossible to make them longer or shorter while wearing the bra.) I gave up on bras with the strap adjustments in the back. I'm not a contortionist and I don't like the bumps under my clothes. (I've got enough going on back there to worry about!) I have found one brand/style that has the sliders in the front: Maidenform's T-shirt bra. It's got underwire and is lined/lightly padded. I buy them six at a time at the Hanes outlet stores, usually for less than $20 each. (Angel says: Also check out the One Fabulous Fit Full Support and One Fabulous Fit Contour bras at maidenform.com.)

Barb suggests a solution to Meg's Reader Rant about the crazy, inconsistent sizing of women's clothes: "I work for a U.S. retail store, and my shoppers have taught me a great trick! Measure your best-fitting top from one armhole to the other. Take your tape measure with you. Measure the top you like in the store and check with the tape before trying it on. One inch plus or so over will fit. Anything less will be too tight. The same trick works with nonelastic waists and hips. This practice saves a lot of time and aggravation in the fitting room. Also, the sales staff should be able to offer sizing tips specific to their merchandise. If the staff cannot help, get out and shop somewhere else! Tape measures are a great tool to get you started no matter where you shop."

Reader rant

Why is it you can buy men's shirts by neck size/sleeve length, but women's tops have a one-size-fits-all sleeve? I'm a size 10-12 in tops due to my wide shoulders, and I have long arms. I hate three-quarter-length sleeves, and most long-sleeved tops hit three inches from the wrist. What gives?

— Angel T.

Answer Angel says: Even many men's shirt-makers are moving into S/M/L/XL sizing. I think it would be a great idea if women could buy more clothes with specific measurements (waist, length, sleeves, etc.), but that would mean manufacturers would have to go to lots more trouble, and we don't think that's going to happen, do we? And the three-quarter sleeves mean they can use less material and charge the same. It's all about the bucks!

Shop, drop,

then get help

Send your rants and questions — on style, shopping, beauty and makeup — to answerangel@

tribune.com.

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