Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Is it the pandemic? Politics? The weather? The fact that it gets dark at 4:30 p.m.? All of the above? Whatever the reason(s), I feel like I've never looked worse. I go back and forth with my sister on what we can do to at least improve our looks, if not our psyche! I know you can't fix all of our problems, but how about answering this question: If you had to pick one makeup item to make me feel better about how I look, what would it be? — Jenny T.

Dear Jenny: What a relief that you boiled your question down to the issue of makeup, because I sure can't help with the other things you mention. Although, if it is any consolation, you're not alone in feeling lousy about all the other stuff. Your search for a single makeup product, unfortunately, has an "it depends" answer.

For instance, if your eyelashes are blond or gray or skimpy, mascara is your best bet. I've tried many mascaras, and I'm not convinced that spending $25 is ever worth it. I keep coming back to Maybelline in the pink tube for around $6 at drugstores, Walmart, Target, etc. Eyeliner makes the biggest difference for me, and that's what I'd choose if I could only pick one thing. If I could pick two, I'd add light brown eye shadow. I foolishly splurged on $28 Bobbi Brown Taupe eye shadow (; department stores), but drugstores are a great place to shop for eye shadows for vastly less.

I'm surprised what a difference a bit of blush makes. If you're adventurous, try a colorful mascara, liner or shadow just for fun. In these bleak pandemic days and months, it's a great time to experiment with colors you'd ordinarily avoid. If not now, when?

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I've noticed that retailers are stocking holiday clothes in real and artificial velvet/velour, and they look cozy. I have a dark red tunic and black leggings in one of these fabrics, but I'm afraid that I'll look like I'm wearing an old tracksuit. Will good jewelry do the job? How do I look dressy, whether it's for a socially distanced small gathering or a Zoom party?

— Amy L.

Dear Amy: You've answered your own question. Jewelry — whether the real thing as in "good" jewelry or glitzy costume statement earrings and/or necklaces — dresses up any basic. A scarf works too, although I find it is always a challenge to tie the thing nicely. (Lots of YouTube videos will help you there.) On Zoom you need only worry about waist-up dressing, so don't expend any energy on your bottom half. In general, you don't need to worry about velvet/velour looking like a tracksuit. Those fabrics are perfect for holiday wear, and you'll look party-ready in that tunic and leggings combo. They're also comfortable — just right for your socially distanced small gathering.


Many readers want to help Paula M., whose parrot attacked the zipper on her favorite warm reversible vest. Jodey has had good luck with zipper repairs at her local shoe repair shop. Joan B. and Olga V. also sing the praises of their neighborhood shoe repair shops and "it's great to support small, local businesses," writes Olga. Bernie S. took her broken zipper to a seamstress who fixed it without needing to replace the whole thing. So did Carol P. and Loretta F.

If it is just a zipper pull that the parrot wrecked, Anne M. recommends the Replacement Locking Zipper Pulls at (3 for $7.99) which work for luggage, purses and clothing and require no tools at all. Nancy D. and Marion N. bought replacement zipper pulls at JoAnn Fabrics for $1.99 and Sherolyn B. found zipper pulls that worked for her on eBay and Amazon. Lauren M. writes, "You can buy leather cording from a fabric store that will slip through the pull-holder and be functional." Susan C. says use "a small metal ring like the ones used for keys."


Ellen T. writes, "I love your love of consignment stores. When we go to Florida we search them out. My husband will buy golf clubs, etc., and then when we leave we donate them back. So much fun!"


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