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earlier discussion

Amy VernerFred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Do you need help with your summer wardrobe? Want to change your professional look? Need advice on what to wear on the town?

Globe Style writer Amy Verner will be online today at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions on all things fashion. E-mail your questions to Ms. Verner now.

After moving back to Canada from New York in 2003 where she studied media criticism at New York University, writer Amy Verner started penning small pieces for Flare and the Toronto Star. By 2006, she was contributing to seven Canadian publications including Toronto Life, Fashion magazine, the National Post and The Globe and Mail. Amy joined The Globe and Mail as the paper's style reporter in 2007 and has since juggled numerous columns such as the Film Festival's party circuit, Toronto's buzz-worthy people and the dos and don'ts of what to wear to work. She also covers all things fashion for the Globe's Life Style section, from decoding the latest trends to interviewing emerging young designers.

Editor's Note: editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Rasha Mourtada, Globe Life web editor: Hi Amy, thanks for coming online. This week you wrote your last Suitable column. What surprised you the most in your two years of writing on work couture?

Amy Verner: Hi Rasha. Indeed, I think we shocked a few followers yesterday with the news. First, allow me to correct you slightly. As mentioned in my final column, we have always labelled Suitable "Work Couture" yet in retrospect, my goal from Day One has been to provide advice that's ready to wear. In other words: accessible and easy to understand. To answer your question, I've been most surprised by discovering that dressing for work is a univeral issue -- it frustrates, confuses and affects all of us.

Sara Clark: Hi Amy, I work in an office where attire ranges from casual to full-on business. I try to stay on the dressier end of things. My question concerns footwear. I have a lovely pair of Kate Spade high platform espadrilles - in top condition, orange/brown/white print on top and a traditional ropey bottom. They are quite dressy (and quite high), but I wonder if the bottoms make them too beachy.

Amy Verner: Oooh, those sound nice! Sight unseen, my feeling is that you can dress them up like a chic Parisienne and make them work for work. Wear them with a blazer -- khaki comes to mind -- and a corresponding skirt (not necessarily matching, you could try navy or darker brown). Do a white top or blouse. Make sure everything is nicely pressed and your hair is done. This way, you'll own the look (even if you're daydreaming about St. Tropez).

AMR from Ottawa writes : Hello ~ I've been at the same job for six years and am making a (long-overdue) change. I have a promising interview in two weeks. The thing is...the job I have had has allowed me to wear anything to work (programmer - I'm often alone in the office - so I often just wear running gear. I know! Eek!Over the years I have given away most of my business wardrobe and what I do have left is all black (I love black). I'm guessing that arriving at an interview in all black would NOT be a good thing. Wondering your thoughts on this and what few things I could add to update myself.

Amy Verner: Hello AMR. At this point, with the limited information I have to go on (I'm not even sure whether you're a man or a woman), I would still suggest steering clear of black head-to-toe. I would say that your number one priority is to make sure what you have fits -- and not simply in terms of whether you've gained or lost weight but whether the sleeves are falling properly and what's happening around the shoulder area. If some of your black clothes pass the fit test, you must then determine whether the black pieces look black enough. By this, I mean that black has a tendency to fade and this is a big giveaway to an interviewer that you do not care about the upkeep of your clothes, which may send signs to them about your potential performance. If your pieces pass these two tests, you may only need some small updates -- you can never go wrong by investing in a white shirt. Not only is this a wardrobe staple but it will bring light to your face (Barack Obama is the poster guy for white shirts). If you're a woman, you may want to purchase some knitwear - pale grey round-neck sweater or cardigan in pale pink. Even a leather belt in a metallic finish of silver or blush pink will go a long way towards updating your basic black. Best of luck!

Amanda writes: I am a young professional who has been in school for most of my life. Currently, my wardrobe for work consists of dress pants, loafer-type shoes and a dress-casual top. I would really like to take it up a notch and dress a little fancier but I find that being in school for so long, I'm much for comfortable in casual attire rather than the dress suit/skirt and blazer. Can you give me some recommendations of simple things I can do to dress a little fancier and more professional that won't bust my budget?

Amy Verner: Hi Amanda. So everyone defines budget busting differently but, lately, I've had much luck in Zara and Club Monaco. Even Winners and Smartset. The key is to spend on anchor pieces like a jacket, dress pants -- even a white shirt -- and then you can build from there. If looking more fashion-y is your goal, one of the sharpest pieces of the season is the 'boyfriend' jacket which is slightly oversized and boxier (I bought one from Zara last month). This is a great piece to throw on over a short-ish summery dress. You have the tailoring and finish of the jacket with the softness underneath. Pair with a gladiator-type sandal (Aldo has a bunch) and voila, a very current statement that you could wear to an office that is not mega buttoned-up. You can never go wrong with classics -- depending on your body type, I love dress shirts (blue stripe, even solid pale pink) paired with slim cigarette-style pants (navy, white, black) and a flat -- no jacket but tres Audrey Hepburn. What's impressed me most at Club Monaco recently are summer knits -- paper-think cardigans with chiffon trim or short-sleeved long versions. You could wear the former with a fuller skirt (think 1950s) or the longer with a straight-legged pant. Fancy doesn't have to mean formal -- it's all about completing the look with the right accessories and footwear. Don't be afraid to ask someone in the store for advice on putting an outfit together.

Brenda writes: Hi Amy. My boyfriend is totally awesome. But....he could use a hand with his clothing choices. I don't want to hurt his feelings though. Do you have any advice on how I can broach the topic? Thanks

Amy Verner: An awesome boyfriend is hard to come by so, indeed, you will need to tread carefully. The thing is, as long as the changes aren't too dramatic (hello, skinny Dior Homme suit), he will likely feel better in his new threads, especially if you lay on the compliments. My suggestion is to take him shopping for you ... and stumble into the men's section. You could give this a go at any Gap or Banana Republic. Suggest something along the lines of "Men are wearing slimmer darker jeans now, I think you'd look so good in them." If he resists, suggest that there's no harm in trying a pair. While he's in the fitting room, bring him a top to try with the jeans. Go easy -- there's a fine line between suggestion your guy would look hot in something and implying that he needs a makeover. The stores aren't going anywhere. And I suspect you only want your relationship to go forward, not back. One last thought and this comes from experience: as much as you may be over the moon that he is open to new clothing options, don't pay for his purchases the first time you shop together. This can come across as patronizing. But feel free to get him a gift now and then.

Ami writes: What styles are best for an hourglass figure: Very full bust, short torso, but small waist?

Amy Verner: Ami, I canvassed the Style team in the newsroom for this one and the unanimous reply was 'waist emphasis.' If it's small, you definitely want to accentuate it, whether with belt options or just the natural waislines of your pants and skirts. Look for fuller skirts that hit just above the knee. My colleague Tiyana's two cents: "keep pant legs flared or bootleg; these styles totally flatter curves." Maggie's thoughts: "tailored blouses, boat neck sweaters and dark colours on top." And stay away from long sweaters - you don't want your lovely silhouette to disappear.

Nicola writes: Hey Amy, I'd love your help on the following shoe issue:I usually buy shoes out of spontaneity. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a closet full of summery shoes (regardless of the season) that look great, but often do not feel great!!! I really do need some comfortable, stylish shoes that I can wear during the fall and winter months, as well (At that time I will be attending a professional school). What do you suggest? Thanks for the help!

Amy Verner: Hi Nicola. Shoe shopping and spontaneity go hand-in-hand. I think we're all guilty of falling in love with fashionable footwear over functional styles. If you live in Toronto, I'd suggest going to Ron White, Get Outside or Trove. They carry fashion brands but but comfort above all else. Geox is another option. Flat boots with a slim, high leg (up to the calf) and little embellishment will allow you to walk city streets pain-free and while lasting through winter weather. You can often find them in stretchy leathers so you can wear them with tights or under pants.

Dennis writes: Hi Amy, So I got a new job recently, and busted my budget to get some good anchor items from Harry Rosen. I love my new work threads, but the problem is, I still don't have a decent pair of shoes. I really don't have the money to spend too much on shoes, and I hate the idea of owning multiple pairs of dress shoes. Is there such a thing as a "magic shoe" - a solid, reasonable pair of shoes that will good with almost anything? Oh, and I want a pair that will stand up to rain and snow as well. Am I asking too much? I already have an "anchor" suit. What would you recommend for "anchor" shoes?

Amy Verner: Well the good news, Dennis, is that the stores are already in mark-down mode. I think you have to decide if you are a loafer or lace-up guy. If you can't have both, I'd suggest loafer but please resist any pair that boasts a clunky, rubber sole. These may be winter weather friendly but they will completely weigh down your new anchor suit. Don't go too 'fashion-y' with the toe box: narrow but not pointed or square is ideal. Visit the expensive shops to get ideas and then perhaps you may find something similar at store like Aldo. You'll need to do some work as far as upkeep (no magic solution here, sorry). Get the shoes sprayed before weather turns foul and wipe them with vinegar when you've been walking in salt.

Illoana writes: Like most Hospitals, we have a dress code for appropriate footwear which must meet health and safety regulations. We are required to wear non-slip, medium heels, closed toes, heel straps. We are all at a loss as to wear to purchase summer footwear that meets the policy and looks appropriate with office-wear (dresses, suits, etc.). Crocs just won't do it! Can you PLEASE help?

Amy Verner: Hi Illoana. At the risk of sounding redundant, I think you will find options at Ron White, which I mentioned earlier in another answer, and Capezio . There are no rules on colour, right? Would you consider wearing a red pump or even a dark purple with your suits and dresses? This way, the colour compensates for all the limitations on style. Also, you can always get a shoemaker to add a thin rubber layer (called a cats paw, I think) to the sole of any shoe to make it non-slip. Kudos, by the way, on your stance against Crocs. While they may fulfill the needs of nurses and interns, they should never be worn with professional attire.