Q: I am getting into vegan fashion right now. I just bought my first pair of “vegan leather” shoes, and, holy wow, do my feet sweat in these buggers. How do you know what to buy? What about caring for vegan leather?

A: I admit that I’ve avoided faux leather shoes and clothes for breathability and durability reasons, so I have relatively little direct experience with vegan fashion. But the past few years have seen pleather move from a cheap-looking alternative to a supple, realistic option that costs less and leaves critters unharmed.

When shopping for faux leather shoes, absorbent footbeds can offset the sweaty foot issue. If you’re in the market for a bag or jacket, thickness is key: Real leather is typically substantial, so paper-thin pleather is a dead giveaway. Thicker materials are likely to last longer, too.

Since faux leather is often made from plastics or vinyl, using traditional leather care products won’t work. Dirt can be removed with warm water and a mild liquid detergent, while many stains can be dealt with by using isopropyl alcohol. (Spot test first, though!) PVC does tend to crack, and I’ve read that applying a bit of baby oil can help, as can keeping items out of direct sunlight.

Q: How can I wear boho styles without looking like I wish I were younger?

A: I truly believe age-appropriateness is relative. Why on earth should a woman who loves her legs abandon miniskirts the second she turns 40? When I work with clients, I tell them the most important thing is to trust your gut: If you feel like you’re too old for leather pants or bright pink tights, then you probably are. But only you can make that call.

In terms of doing bohemian style without veering into “mutton dressed as lamb” territory, your best bet is to go subtle. Embroidered maxi skirts and fringed suede jackets might feel like overkill, but solid clothes in a warm, autumnal palette paired with funky boots should work. Also consider creating a neutral backdrop and adding boho accessories; think a simple long-sleeved sheath dress with a hip-slung belt, or jeans and a white tee with a bold brass bib necklace. Still in doubt? Allow yourself one item per outfit that screams “boho,” and keep the rest simple and classic.


Q: Any guidance on how to dress after having a baby while in the process of getting back to pre-baby clothing? I’m still only wearing bottoms with stretchy waistbands such as yoga pants and maxi skirts, but I still want to look nice while in this awkward phase.

A: I’ve got one word for ya: thrift.

Feeling stuck in your maternity clothes after baby has arrived is aggravating, but it can take many months for your body to transition back. And at a certain point, you may find that neither your pre- nor post-baby clothes are fitting properly!

That’s when you thrift. Pick up a few versatile basics at a secondhand store, make sure they fit the figure you have right now, and rely on them until you feel your body shifting again. Make yourself a temporary capsule wardrobe with classics such as ponte pencil skirts, floaty blouses, dark denim and structured jackets. Then add zest with shoes, accessories and handbags — that marvelous triad of items that always fit. Mixing in some of your maternity and pre-baby clothes as needed will give you more options, too.

Actually, I’ve got one more word for ya: jackets. When your clothes and body feel loosey-goosey, one structured item can make all the difference. Blazers and jackets — even ones made from soft but heavy knits — can pull your look together instantly, even if everything else you’re wearing needs to be flowy and unconfining. Lean on your jackets if those maxi skirts just don’t feel polished enough on their own.


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.