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Ready-to-wear white elephants tempt vacationers


Taste and money are no defense against fashion blunders. The May issue of Town & Country features a photo essay titled "White Elephants in the Closet, or . . . When Bad Fashion Happens to Good People." The article features socialites, designers and aristocrats wearing their worst wardrobe mistakes. Jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane lounges in a 19th century embroidered robe that looks like a reject from a Hollywood epic. Linda Johnson Rice sports a fluffy feather jacket which she says makes her feel like a chicken. The rich and famous admit they commit many of their fashion sins in the exotic vacation spots of the world. They get stuck with robes from Morocco and Angkor Wat or itchy capes from Marrakesh.

There's a lesson here. Vacation season lowers our resistance to the buying bug. With traveler's checks in hand and an emancipated spirit, we become prone to sartorial sins. Does a working woman really need a pinafore with hand-painted flowers? It looks charming in that cute New England boutique, but in the real world the thing would make any woman look like an over-the-hill Heidi. Does an adult male really need a Goofy T-shirt? No. That fun purchase often ends up being worn to clean out the garage.

Retailers pay premium prices for rental space in prime resort locations, and they must pass the cost on to the shopper. Add to that the seasonal nature of resort shopping and you get over-the-top prices.

So before you splurge on the Honolulu muumuu or the dude ranch leather chaps think of home. You can save yourself from looking silly and save some dollars, too.

Vacation packing

Designer Ann Lawrence has some vacation season reminders on packing with panache:

* Eliminate everything that requires ironing. Easy-care fabrics such as knits, jerseys and silk crepes pack beautifully.

* Eliminate duplicates. Will some of your selections work more than one way? A great T-shirt worn under a jacket on one occasion can top jeans or silk pants at another. A shawl or large scarf can tie a wardrobe together -- wear it over your head on a windy beach, over a bare dress at lunch or around your waist at cocktails.

* Packing clothes in complementary shades will save luggage space and simplify your life. And isn't that the whole point of a vacation?

Making shoes stretch

Travel experts and common sense will tell you never to break in new shoes on a vacation. Some people never listen. They will pack along pretty new sandals or walking shoes. For those who do, there's a remedy for the inevitable pain. Liquid shoe stretch, available at shoe repair stores and drugstores, can ease the pinch. Simply saturate the shoe inside and out at the points of pressure and wear the shoe until the leather dries. Shoes will give fairly quickly and begin to conform to the foot. Shoe stretch, which works only on leather, should go along on any holiday. Long flights, pressurized cabins and days of sightseeing will cause feet to swell, so even comfortable old shoes may need a treatment. At less than $2, a small bottle can save the traveler some pain. It's no fun sitting out the castle tour.

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