Darren Kennedy: Style dilemma
Q: I'm a 37-year-old stay-at-home mum, carrying a few extra pounds, with shag-all in my purse! Reading about stick-thin models wearing clothes I can't afford really frustrates me, so I'd very much welcome any recommendations on new trends that work for real women.
Emily, Co Louth
A: Emily, I'm a firm believer that it's not about how much you spend on clothes but how you wear them. Some of the best-dressed people I know are frugal shoppers who update their look by mixing high-street bargains with staple pieces from their wardrobe.
Competition on the high street -- and online -- has never been so fierce, so there is real value to be had. Colour is king this season so, assuming you have the basics covered, one sure-fire way to update your look is with a blast of vibrant colour.
This gorgeous short mac from Dunnes Stores will definitely add some pop to a look. It's a classic coat given a modern twist, and when belted, creates a beautiful silhouette. What's more, it's very keenly priced at €35.
Big, bold prints are also very much of this season, and this cute floral-print dress (€21) from Penneys offers good structure.
For colour blocking, Dunnes Stores has nailed it with an elegant monochrome dress (€25).
If you're for something that's chic yet very wearable, Irish label Laundry Room is a must-see. Its black-and-print tunic dress (€55) has a real vintage quality and is one of my personal favourites.
Q: My wife and I had our first child just under a year ago, and I want to surprise her with a night out. I'd like to get her a nice new dress for the occasion, but I've no idea where to start. I know she is a size 14. She used to wear lots of colour, but since the baby it's been a uniform of black, so I reckon she'd like something with a bit of colour in it.
Thomas, 36, Kilkenny
A: Thomas, your wife sounds like a lucky lady. Without knowing all the specifics in terms of her shape and style preferences, I can only advise on what is to be found in the shops. H&M has a great selection of wallet-friendly dresses. The cobalt-blue dress with gold belt (€34.95) will give great shape and definition to a fuller bust, while the digital floral print dress (€39.95) is a lot more figure hugging. For something more classic, this red dress from Boutique by Jaeger (€220 at Arnotts) will skim over the tummy area and provide coverage for the top of the arms, or, for a much softer look, this short-sleeve tailored dress with pleat detail on the waist from iClothing.ie (€54) is on the money.
Q: I've noticed lots of high-waisted shorts in the shops over the past couple of weeks. I would like to give them a go, but I'm just not sure how best to wear them.
Chloe, 26, Waterford
A: High waists have taken hold over skirts, trousers and jeans, so it was only a matter of time before the high-waisted style reappeared in shorts territory.
This season, they come in a multitude of styles, ranging from full and loose-fitting to pleated and demure. There’s a brown pair from the latest alwear collection (€30) that’s bang on trend. What's more, they are extremely versatile and can be worn both very casually or dressed up. Lovers of denim will want these lavender denim shorts with plaited belt (€64) from Monsoon.
Floaty blouses or ruffled tops are a good pairing with this style of shorts. Make sure you tuck your top into your shorts, since the point of this style is to show off your waist. Adding a skinny belt tends to work well and will draw even more attention to your waist. Team with a pair of wedges to make your legs appear inches longer.
For a dressed-down look, pair with some flat shoes or sandals. Or for the best of both worlds, wear your shorts with these heeled leather brogues (€44.99) from New Look.