Q: I read your column and enjoy it. Though I am 73 years old, I maintain an interest in dressing well; my tastes tend toward natural shoulder, three-button jackets.
Recently, I have noticed at least three advertisements for men's double-breasted suits that show the jacket buttoned on the left, as a woman's jacket or shirt is buttoned. What's going on? I enclose the latest ad I've seen.
A: Your eyes are plenty sharp. While on occasion a woman's "man-tailored" shift is purposely designed to button left-over-right, men's clothes are never cut to close right-over-left.
What you have noticed is a misprint; the photograph has been printed backwards.
Recently I leafed through a new catalog of fine women's clothes from a major women's specialty store, counting no less than 10 instances where the women's outfits were buttoned wrong -- that is, the photos had been reversed. Since women's clothes often do not lap over and button, and only seldom have a breast pocket adorned with a pocket handkerchief, such errors are nowhere near so apparent as on a photo of a man's suit.
Q: I am colorblind. Not just for reds and greens or for the subtle differences between dark blue and dark gray suits, but for
almost every color. I can distinguish between light and dark, but that's about it. A lot of the guys I work with have wives who still lay out their clothes for them. When I was a kid, my mom did it for me. But now that I'm on my own, it is a problem. I do the obvious, such as buying only black socks, but everything else I wear can't be plain old black. Do you have some suggestions?
A: A friend of mine has a trial-lawyer husband with exactly your problem. When he's trying a case at home, she chooses his clothes. But when he is at an out-of-town trial for a few days, she has worked out a system to help him dress well.
Every garment is marked with some letter or number code, including the top and bottom half of a suit for a correct match-up. For example, inside the waistband of a pair of trousers is a letter code that matches the letter code on the inside pocket of the suit jacket and also describes the color, such as "gray pinstripe". My friend says it's not too different from preparing her sons for camp. On the soles of his shoes, just in front of the heel is a symbol that helps him align matching pairs as well as #F shoe-to-suit color.
On each shirt tail she writes with a laundry pencil which suits the shirt will coordinate with, such as "GR" (for gray) or "BL" (for blue). And inside the lining of each tie is a clue for coordinating the ideal shirt with the right suit.
Once it is established, this system works like a charm. But you must have a friend with a good eye for color -- or a patient and very helpful salesperson -- to help you set it up.
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.