GREAT LENGTHS For fashionable men's topcoats, longer is better


QI have a fine wool topcoat that's still in good condition. It's longer than my weekend car coat, but my wife complains that it's out of style.

A: Recently I've noticed men wearing raincoats and topcoats that are too short. (To the knee or just slightly above the knee qualifies as "too short"). This one small flaw can mar an outfit's overall effect.

Though the pendulum swings slowly, men's coat lengths do change. For the past quite-a-few years, the accepted coat style has been long enough to cover the knee. It is safe to say that the more forward the fashion, the longer the coat. Armani-type designers show coats that graze the calf. Conservative coats are shorter.

Despite this distinction, the well-clad traditional Brooks Brothers dresser does not allow his coat to come above his knee. Such a look suggests a coat that has been in one's closet for too many years.

Check your coat. If it seems to fit this too-short category, now is the perfect time to look into end-of-the-season coat sales.

Q: Since you know all about tuxes, you may have an answer for me. I did not wear my tux for years. I kept it in a garment bag. Recently when I pulled it out, the jacket was badly faded. The sleeves and bottom show a rosy color.

Since the pants are still good, I would like to get only another jacket. Is there a place where I can get a used one or a new one at a reasonable price?

A: Unfortunately, even if you could buy a separate black jacket for your evening suit, you would find that it would never exactly match your trousers. Still, the situation is not hopeless. Black formal trousers worn with a white summer dinner jacket is a --ing combination, and especially useful in warm climates. As you suggested, a "gently used" white jacket can sometimes be unearthed in thrift shops and newly chic "vintage" clothing stores.

Or consider a quietly unique dark-colored dinner jacket, such as a Black Watch tartan (green, navy, and black plaid) in lightweight wool for winter wear or silk for summer.

Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.

Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.

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