Friends of mine entertain a lot, and they're planning a big "black tie" party for New Year's. My problem is they recently got new carpet and started a "no-shoes" policy in their home, with a little sign by the front door. So we will all be walking around barefoot or in socks! Normally I wouldn't mind, but I don't want to be ripping holes in my nylons. What should I do?

- Lisa D.
A: If your friends entertain often, I sure hope they didn't install white carpet. But removing your shoes at the door is an effective way to reduce dirt throughout the whole house. In fact, I grew up in a no-shoes house. My grandmother took it one step further, and even made us wash the soles of our shoes before putting them away in the closet!

When entertaining in your own home, let guests know in advance. Provide a basket of clean socks in several sizes and thicknesses. If you are hosting a large party, consider suspending the no-shoes policy for the evening. A big mat outside the front door and an area rug inside the entry will trap most of the dirt and it'll be easier on your guests.

When you visit someone else's no-shoes home, bring your own slippers or socks. For women who still want a formal look, shop for socks designed to wear with low-cut shoes like ballet flats. Buy them in black or whatever color will work with your outfit. Smartwool makes a cozy pair, and cotton-blend ones from Hue are probably available wherever you buy socks. You can wear these over hose or with a bare leg for a prettier look than borrowed crew socks. And, you can easily fit a pair in all but the tiniest purse.

For men, make sure your socks are in good condition and match your dress pants. For anyone at a casual no-shoes party, anything works - as long as there are no holes.

Enjoy your holidays and let me know how this party goes.