Q: Like many around the country, my New Year's resolution is to get fit and shift a few pounds, so I've decided I'm going to start walking. I've never really been one for any sort of exercise and my wardrobe is completely devoid of anything sporty. What could I wear that's practical and semi-nice to look at?
Hilary, 27, Roscommon
A One of the most important things for any outdoor activity, particularly at this time of year, is staying warm. As a rule of thumb, you are better off avoiding clothes that are bulky or restraining and instead layering with several lightweight items. This allows you to more easily regulate your temperature.
TK Maxx offers good choice and value when it comes to suitable attire. For example, this black-and-pink sweat top (€19.99) and joggers (€16.99) are ideal. The flared bottoms in the joggers will flatter the figure, particularly important when just starting out on your new regime.
Pair with a good-quality coat for a super-stylish walking wardrobe.
Marc Cain has a lush knee-length puffa (€710, Arnotts). It's very pricey, but it will double up for your casual winter wardrobe -- treated right it will last year after year.
Or opt for a more lightweight jacket, such as this little number from Mexx (€99.95).
A good pair of runners is vital. The Reebok EasyTone range (€85, Lifestyle Sports) offers good support.
Finish off the look with some headwear -- Littlewoods Ireland has a faux-fur ski hat (€37) that's sure to keep you cosy.
Q I'm a nightmare when it comes to shopping in the sales. Every year, I always put a few euro aside to treat myself in the January sales. I like to wait until the end of them to let the madness calm down.
I've no problem spending the money, but I never seem to end up buying anything worthwhile. Do you have any pointers on how to get the most out of the sales?
Avril, 36, West Dublin
A With the sales in full swing and stores touting all kinds of wonderful bargains, it's very easy to lose track of what you are actually looking for.
It definitely pays to know how to shop savvy in the sales so that you don't end up with a wardrobe full of bargains that will never be worn.
First, it's only a bargain if you need it. The key to successful sales shopping is to remain focused. I find the best way to do that is to write a list. Before leaving the house, go through your wardrobe and identify key items you are lacking.
Second, and it may sound obvious, if the fit isn't right, don't buy it. More often than not, such items never make it to alterations and end up as wardrobe clutter. Finally, don't be too eager. Prices continue to drop, with big reductions at the end of the sales. Bide your time; it's not the end of the world if you don't get it.
Q Hi Darren, I am considering treating myself to a new jacket, something that could be worn while out on the town, perhaps. My wardrobe on a typical night out would be a shirt or T-shirt paired with jeans. I'm looking for something kind of casual and preferably dark in colour. I'm pretty open to style and design — any suggestions?
Stephen, 20, Dublin
A There's a great selection of jackets in menswear at the moment that won't blow the budget. Unlike womenswear, men's clothing styles move at a much slower pace. Unless you choose something very distinct and ‘now', you should get plenty of wear out of any new pieces.
Classics such as the trench or pea coat have been brought up to date with modern twists while still retaining the essence of their original appeal. Fred Perry has a hooded coat (€245, BT2) that’s a case in point. For excellent value, check out the Creek Reefer coat at Heatons (€45), or Penneys has a single-breasted,tweed, funnel coat for €60. Double-breasted military detailing is still very popular, as are quilted jackets. One of my personal favourites at the moment is this brown-leather flight jacket with faux-fur collar and cuffs from Burton (€185).
Ultimately, when it comes to choosing the right coat, there are two key areas to look out for: first, the fit — it must be the correct size, and good tailoring is vital; second, subtle touches such as epaulettes and interesting detailing in the lining, pockets or cuffs make all the difference.