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Perfect Fit

Still looking for the perfect gift for you sister? It's a rare woman who doesn't love clothes, but many people feel uncomfortable picking out duds for someone else.

You could go with a department-store gift card, but picking something yourself is much more personal and rewarding.

To improve your chances of success, carefully consider your gift recipient's coloring and body type before buying, says image consultant Barb Wilson.

"Shop first for color, then for fit," she recommends. "Splashes of color are the key to looking great daily."

Choose colors your recipient wears often. If she knows she looks good in blue, she'll be more excited about a blue sweater than, say, the orange one that you love.

The right fabric can make or break a garment.

"Matte fabrics that absorb light (tightly woven knits, wools and even cottons) can be very forgiving," says former model Diana Pemberton Sikes, who runs Fashionforrealwomen.com. Shiny pieces that reflect light (satins, silks and metallics) are fun, but they can make the wearer look larger. Check care tags, too. While dry-clean only might be fine for your single sister, your new-mom best friend might prefer a cotton piece that's machine washable.

If you can, bring along another friend who is of similar size and body type to try on clothes before you buy them. Your surrogate "should be able to put two fingers sideways into the waistband for a comfortable fit," says Pemberton Sikes.

Pants should have enough space in the crotch area to feel comfortable whether the wearer is sitting or standing. And wrap dresses, she says, "are almost universally flattering because the diagonal across the torso makes short women look taller, busty women look less top-heavy and heavy women look slimmer.

If you know your beneficiary is self-conscious about a specific body part, take that into consideration when choosing embellished pieces.

"Avoid shirts with breast pockets" for busty women, Pemberton Sikes advises. Pockets or detailing on pants and skirts can draw attention to wide hips. On the other hand, if your recipient wants to look taller, clothes with vertical details can enhance the illusion.

Wilson says accessories, tops and sweaters make good gifts. Fit is less critical on a shirt than on pants, she explains.

"Belts and scarves are in and work at all ages," she continues. She recommends wool, cotton or silk scarves or pashmina shawls. Other wearable items that make good gifts include hats and unusual jewelry.

A great handbag can also be a fun yet functional gift.

"Keep in mind where the bag will land," Wilson advises. Slimmer totes and handheld bags are better for curvy girls because they don't add mass to the center of the body.

If, despite your best efforts, your gift doesn't fit quite right, there are still options. You can offer to have the garment altered. At the Alteration Center in Medford, seamstresses Anita Ritchey and Pamela Wenzel "do all kinds of alterations," says Ritchey. Adjustments to a pair of pants start at about $15.

Gaping waistbands can be made smaller very unobtrusively, Ritchey says, "without having to do anything to the label on the back of jeans."

Low-rise pants can be made to fit better by deepening the crotch seam.

"This raises the waistband," Ritchey explains, "and is more flattering for most women." The same type of adjustment can make a tight sleeve fit more comfortably.

The best part?

"When we get done, it looks like it fit perfectly straight from the factory," Ritchey says.

Perfect Fit