Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I would love to get some advice about cotton shirts. I almost always wear simple all-cotton V-necked T-shirts on their own in summer or under sweaters in winter. I have found that no matter what brand I try (and I have tried Lands’ End, L. L.Bean, Eddie Bauer, etc.), they always shrink up an inch or so and end up more square fitting, which I do not want. It is not flattering to have the bottom end right at my waist and not more at my hips as when I originally buy them. I recently bought three cotton Tommy Hilfiger shirts and tried my very best not to dry them, but missed one in the wash and dried it. When I put it next to the ones I did not dry, it was over an inch and a half shorter, so I know it isn’t my imagination. Do any of your readers know of any cotton knit shirts that are preshrunk and will not shrink up like this? It is driving me crazy! They all say they are able to be dried in the washing instructions.
— Jennifer C.
Dear Jennifer: You’ve already tried my best suggestion, which is don’t put those shirts in the dryer. The heat, as you discovered, is shrinking the 100% cotton you favor. Other options: Buy shirts that are a blend of cotton and synthetic fiber, or go up one size. I get it: All-cotton knit feels great on your skin. But it shrinks in the dryer. Can Jennifer have it both ways? If readers have other suggestions, please help me help Jennifer.
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I want to do aquatic exercise classes and also occasional canoeing and kayaking. What sort of swimwear would you recommend? One friend suggested board shorts. Another suggested a swim bra and swim top. I want modest coverage and, of course, comfort.
Dear Carol: Stick with a one-piece tank suit and you won’t have to worry about showing off your midriff (if you were to follow your friends’ recommendations). One that has an attached skirt will be even more modest. Be sure the suit straps stay put and don’t cut into your shoulders. The simpler the better. Lands’ End (landsend.com) and L. L. Bean (llbean.com) have good basics. So does swimsuitsforall.com. For canoeing and kayaking you’ll be even more comfortable if you wear active outdoor fabric shorts over the swimsuit to avoid showing more flesh than you are comfortable with.
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I was a huge fan of the Lucy activewear clothing line, particularly their workout shorts and pants. They had a line of workout pants and shorts called Strong is Beautiful and a line of shorts called the Do Everything Bermuda. Then the stores disappeared and I am trying to find something comparable. The shorts were at least mid-thigh length, probably a 7-inch length or longer. Why are shorts that length so hard to find?? I’m not in my 20s anymore and would prefer something more appropriate.
— Mindy B.
Dear Mindy: You are not the first reader who has complained to me that she can’t find longer shorts, which are often more flattering than the shorter ones mostly found in stores and online now. Since Lucy merged with North Face, you confront the problem we all do: Favorite clothing items are discontinued.
One solution is to look for your favorites at online sites that sell gently used (or even new) clothing: eBay.com, tradesy.com, thredup.com, poshmark.com and etsy.com, for example. Also thrift and consignment stores are good sources of activewear and older styles like the shorts you’re looking for. One more thing. I just took a look at the Lands’ End website, one of my go-tos for basics (like the swimwear I recommended above for Carol) and found options in 7-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch inseam shorts.
Barbara C.’s gripe: “Hi, Ellen, I love your column but I really miss ‘Reader Rant.’ Please bring it back for us. Thank You.” From Ellen: The Reader Rant feature wasn’t discontinued. It just was on a break because readers weren’t ranting. All rants are welcome here! Keep them coming.
Send your questions and rants — on style, shopping, fashion, makeup and beauty — to email@example.com.