Q: I really enjoy monochromatic looks, or wearing most of the same color. Sometimes I worry that I’m guilty of “matchy-matchy” and maybe I’m edging into an older, dare I say frumpy territory. I’m not sure how to keep wearing my favorite colors, and enjoying coordinated looks, while keeping things interesting. Should I try to wear only two items of the same color? Choose smaller items to match? Maybe cobalt shoes and a cobalt skirt is too much? But cobalt shoes and necklace is OK?

A: I feel like the fashionista backlash against matching has subsided somewhat. But if you worry about veering into frumpiness, some guidelines might be helpful. If you’re wearing a belt, bag and shoes, you’ll look perfectly chic if you match two out of three. When all three match you run the risk of looking intensely retro, but when two match and one is complementary, you’re golden. If you aren’t wearing a belt, matching your bag and shoes will pull your look together quite nicely.

Consider doing monochromatic looks in shades. If you want to try head-to-toe purple, wear a dark purple cardigan, a top in a purple-inclusive print, a lavender skirt and neutral accessories. When you do wear several items in a single shade, make sure to include multiple textures and fibers to create depth. And always do neutral accessories.

Monochrome can be chic, but an outfit in which all garments and accessories are the exact same color diverges from chic and heads toward kooky.


Q: I am a 43-year-old woman returning to mid-level corporate management after 10 years of raising children. I am a chubby pear shape. The full skirts and tighter shirts that flatter my figure look a little bit too “1950s picnic” for the office. I just look dumpy in the sheath dresses and trouser/blouse combos that seem so of-the-moment. Any advice?

A: There is hope! Start by tracking down some true A-line skirts. Most available skirts and dresses seem to be slim pencils or pleated fulls, which is just bonkers since A-line shapes work beautifully for many women. Look for skirts that mimic the shape of a capital letter A, widening gradually from waistband to hem without pleats or gathers. These skirts will glide over your hips without clinging, yet look more professional than full, pleated styles.

As for trousers, flat front, pocket-free, mid-rise versions are ideal, but top-entry pockets will do. Buy the size that fits where you are largest (likely hips) and have them tailored elsewhere (waist and possibly legs). Slight boot cuts and wide-leg styles will work best, and you can wear them with heels. If you prefer the more modern look of straight-leg pants, pair them with bright or printed tops.

After all, balancing a larger bottom half sometimes means adding some visual volume to your top half — jackets with defined shoulders, ruffled tops and statement necklaces. Nothing drastic, just detailing that makes your top half look subtly bigger, draws the eye upward, or both.


Q: As a comic book fan, I have a large collection of graphic T-shirts, and every single one is a basic boxy style for men. A lot of these shirts are unique and no longer available, so they have sentimental value. What are your thoughts on getting them altered to fit a woman’s frame? Is it worth the cost? Is it even doable?

A: In a word, YES. Get them altered. If you have any garments you adore that could benefit from some shortening or shaping, they are absolutely worth it. You’ll get more use out of them and you’ll feel more confident if they fit you correctly.

I have similar issues with graphic tees: Women’s styles are cut incredibly slim and ridiculously long, so if they fit me in the shoulders and bust, they’re clingy around the belly and hips. I’ve bought both men’s and women’s sizes, and had both hemmed to hit just above my hips. A good tailor can also shape a tee at the waist to fit your figure.


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.