Q: I would like tips on wearing women’s boots/booties during the summer.

A: I’m all in favor of year-round boot wear, but know it can be challenging to style this family of footwear for warm weather.

If you’re pairing ankle boots with slim or skinny pants, try rolling a small cuff that hits just above the boot top, exposing a sliver of ankle. This provides a peek at the true silhouette of your leg, and also makes your overall look feel more seasonally appropriate. If you’re doing a dress or skirt and worry about visually shortening your legs, opt for a bootie that’s close to the color of your skin tone. Also accept that your eye may still be adjusting; ankle boots are still relatively new, and many of us aren’t used to seeing them worn with bare legs.

In terms of taller boots for spring and summer, I’d advise opting for light colors regardless of your skin tone. Knee-high black boots against bare skin won’t look terribly seasonal, but knee-high tan or cognac boots will be less jarring. Styling tall boots with cowgirl-influenced looks helps ease them into summer wear, too. Try a snap-front shirt and denim skirt, or floaty white dress and denim jacket.


Q: Tricks for working with extremely pale skin. I’m very fair — to the point where when I go without makeup, total strangers ask if I’m not feeling well. I’ve adopted the strategy of playing up my paleness rather than hiding it, but would always be happy for more tips.

A: I’m right there with you, my pale friend. I might not have the Scandinavian ancestry to back it up, but I rock Casper-white skin every day of my life.

First and foremost, my advice would be try not to worry about it. Anyone who has the time and energy to police the shade of your skin should really get a hobby. Your skin is your business, no matter how tan, not tan, pale, dark, spotty or covered in “Twilight”-reminiscent glittery bits it may be. Period.

Aside from that, try mixing more prints and patterns into your looks, especially up top. Big swaths of color can wash you out or alter how your skin tone is perceived, but patterns are more forgiving. Naturally, some patterns will work better than others with your hair, facial features and figure, so choose carefully. But be aware that doing patterns against pale skin may appear less harsh than solids.

When you do do solids, embrace contrast. Pale pinks, ivories and blushes may make you look uniformly ghostly, so opt instead for richer, more saturated shades that play off your natural undertones and offer sophisticated contrast to your light-colored skin.

You can also look to proudly pale celebrities for inspiration. Emma Stone, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Nicole Kidman and Dita Von Teese all have fair skin. Any outfit photos you can track down will show you how they select colors, accessorize and style their hair to look stylish and chic year-round.


Q: Can you discuss the particulars of petites? I’ve never understood whether it just applies to the length of the clothes or whether it affects the overall garment in some way. I am short, but not necessarily “petite” in my frame, so sometimes petites work, but sometimes they don’t. I’d certainly appreciate it.

A: Great question, and one that isn’t often addressed directly. Most of us associate the word “petite” with height, and that’s certainly a factor. But clothing that is designed for petite frames isn’t just shorter, it’s designed for a set of proportions that diverges from standard sizing in several ways.

Most of us know that petite dresses and skirts have slightly higher hemlines, and that petite pants have shorter inseams. But you’ll find that most petite shirts are designed with shorter sleeves and petite pants tend to have slightly shorter rises. To accommodate a frame that is more compact, petite dress waistlines are often a little higher than those of regular sized dresses. And in really good petite lines, designers will have adjusted knee placement to suit shorter legs.

So if you’re a regular-height person with a short waist, you can try buying petite tops. They’ll certainly be shorter in the body, but those shortened sleeves may look a little odd on you. And if you’re over 5 feet 4 and your long-waistedness affects your pant hems, you might want to go with a short inseam instead of switching over to petite sizes.


Sally McGraw is a Minneapolis-based personal stylist and creator of the Already Pretty (alreadypretty.com) blog. Her fashion advice appears on this page once a month. Send questions to: tellus@startribune.com.