Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I have often wanted to hide under a beautifully tied scarf on a "bad hair day" but every time I try to artfully tie one, it's not tight enough or I look like I'm getting ready to scrub the bathroom floor instead of looking stylish and put together. Are there any tricks to making this look work? — Catherine L.
Dear Catherine: Call it a turban, a head wrap, a headscarf — whatever — this is what it takes:
1. The right scarf
Take it from me, you're not going to be able to do this with one-try-and-out-the-door. Bad hair days are a constant for those of us with curly hair — depending on climate, humidity and who knows what else. So I've got a lot of experience with your dilemma. For women with thinning hair or hair loss due to chemo, a cute scarf is a great solution. It is easier to show how to tie a scarf than to describe it, which is why I am sending you to the internet, where there's an abundance of videos to help. But there's not much help there on how to choose the right scarf to begin with.
Big is better. Rectangular is the best starting shape. Silk or poly is slippery and makes it harder to keep it in place. Cotton or a fabric with texture (but not too thick) is easier to work with. My favorite scarf for this purpose is all-cotton (made in India), rectangular, 6 feet by 3 1/2 feet wide. The ample width enables me to fold it in half lengthwise, which makes it stay on better and cover more. I bought it at a thrift store for a few dollars but I've seen them in stores for $10 to $15. Above all, stick with it. Don't be discouraged. This will take some time to get it right, but with or without some interesting earrings, you'll be a standout and no one will know about the uncooperative hair beneath!
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I love shopping at resale shops, but over the past few years I've noticed that my finds have been sprayed with some sort of product that is supposed to make them smell good. I understand that shops want to eliminate musty smells in clothing that has been packed away, but this perfume smell aggravates my allergies and is difficult to wash out. Any tips for making these clothes smell fresh without having to wash numerous times and hang outside? — Cindy M.S.
Dear Cindy: I took your question to the expert. My good friend Allison Engel is one of the co-authors (with her twin sister, Margaret Engel, and Reise Moore), of the definitive book on resale shops, "ThriftStyle," (amazon.com, $10.87).
She says, "Our experience has been that chain consignment stores (we're looking at you, Clothes Mentor and Plato's Closet) are habitual offenders in the overly-perfumed spray department. We have heard that spraying vodka on washable clothing helps get rid of perfume smells, but I have not tried it. It is much easier to get out the more normal 'thrift store smell,' which usually comes from musty smelling items. On washable items, fill the machine with water and add one cup of white vinegar and let the items sit for an hour before finishing the cycle without adding detergent or fabric softener. (Adding a detergent with bleach creates toxic fumes with the vinegar!) Items can then be washed normally with detergent on a new cycle."
For more tips: thriftstyleblog.com.
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I find that I am having have trouble with pierced earrings. When I was younger (around 10 years of age), I had my ears pierced once, but there was some difficulty and maybe a year later, they were re-pierced right next to the original holes and I used these and wore pierced earrings happily for 30 years. Now in my early 50s, I find I am having difficulties. It is almost as if a scab forms over the holes each time I take earrings out and then when I try to wear them again, the lobes bleed by the holes (no matter the type of earring — but I don't wear heavy earrings). I use alcohol on both the holes and the earrings to clean them each time and I have never slept with earrings in. It also seems like the lobes lack the volume they once did so that the earrings sag (even small, lightweight ones). — KB
Dear KB: Let's start with the easier question first: The sagging. One cause is wear and tear on your earlobes from years talking on the phone with your earrings stretching out the holes from the pressure of the headset. Another is heavy earrings stretching the earring hole over time. Finally, gravity and aging are culprits. Dermatologists offer to inject fillers to minimize the stretching. Plastic surgeons have more expensive solutions.
Years ago, I switched to clip-ons but that's an impractical solution for many women. There are an array of styles of earring/lobe lifts, patches or supports available online to solve the droopy earring problem. I haven't tested them but would like to hear from readers who have.
As for the bleeding problem, you quite likely have developed an allergy to the metal (nickel, perhaps) in the wires or posts of your earrings. This can come on after many years of wearing those earrings without problems. Some "solid" gold contains nickel additive and unless the earrings were promoted as hypoallergenic or nickel-free, you might not know that's why you're suffering. Itching, irritation, redness and rash are other symptoms of allergic reaction.
A dermatologist can tell just by looking or with a patch test if this is what's going on with you. But don't hold out much hope that it's curable. Try the hypoallergenic pierced earring sleeve protectors that fit over standard posts and wires (etsy.com, $3; amazon.com, $4.98).