Q: What should I wear to a birthday party on a boat that will sail around Manhattan? I've never set foot on a boat for that kind of event, and I have no idea what to wear. The party starts at 6:30 so we can watch the sun set over the harbor.
A: On a boat it's always more chic to be under-dressed than over-dressed. Unless it's a cruise ship, a boat is no place for high heels and floating chiffon.
Choose your prettiest silk shirt, team it with white pants and tie a cardigan or pullover around your waist -- you may need it for warmth later in the evening. The cardigan can be white or a color that harmonizes with your shirt.
For shoes, choose white espadrilles or sandals with non-slip soles or sneakers. Take an over-the-shoulder bag to keep your hands free while getting on and off the boat. Tuck a scarf -- perhaps a print that tones with your blouse -- into your bag. It will come in handy for your hair if the wind comes up suddenly.
As for makeup, keep it natural but pretty -- matte shadows on the eyes rather than glitter.
Q: For the past few seasons, I've worn nothing but black. Black was everywhere in the stores, and it was the easiest way to build a wardrobe. Now I feel I've overdosed on black and want to put some color in my wardrobe. How do I start?
A: At Liz Claiborne, Bob Abajian, head of designer sportswear, agrees that black from head to toe can look heavy in warm weather:
"Buy neutral tones like honey, olive, putty and banana. They're fashionable, pretty, easy to wear and fresh.
"You'll find subtle shades add elegance and lightness to black wardrobe pieces without overpowering."
Mr. Abajian adds that every color goes with black so it won't be difficult to find the right neutral to suit you. Another plus: All your black accessories still look good with your new combinations. That's a major consideration.
Black is an important fashion color all year around -- don't throw away any favorite pieces. You may
regret it later.
Q: All we hear from designers is that narrow pants are "out" and full pants are "in."
I love pants. They are so comfortable and I can wear them at my advertising agency job in the city. But I'm not only short, I have short legs.
Do I really have to throw out my flattering tapered pants?
A: Here's what Korean-born New York designer Cathy Hardwick says:
"Keep your tapered pants to wear with sweaters, shirts and tunics at home and on the weekend. I don't believe in getting rid of comfortable clothes -- they're like good friends. But for your working wardrobe, find a couple pairs of straight or slightly flared pants in fluid fabrics.
"Choose neutral colors, say, black, brown, gray and navy. Use these new pants to mix with the jackets and tops you already have. I think you'll find the silhouette refreshingly new.
"For evening, look for full pants in a semi-transparent fabric. These fabrics are a great buy because they are seasonless. Again, choose a neutral color.
"To help conceal short legs make sure the pants are cut with a low crotch. It will make them fall more gracefully, hiding your tummy and backside. Until you move, it will look like a long skirt. And anyone of any height looks good in a long skirt."
Q: I bought myself a short dress with a deep-V neckline and long soft sleeves for parties. The fabric is a pale peach rayon georgette. It looks great, except that my neck looks too bare. What jewelry would go with it?
A: Silver is making a big comeback, and it would suit both the bTC pale color and the delicate fabric of your party dress. New York designer Stephen Dweck says it's a cool metal -- cool-looking and cool to the touch:
"It's light and goes well with pale colors. The more you wear it the more comfortable you feel.
"I suggest a pendant on a long, flexible, movable chain."
The pendant could be a no-color agate that's almost transparent or even clear crystal. If you like, you can double the chain around your neck to give a more definite line.
"On the other hand, if you love pearls, look for some strung on a silver chain. Or even pearls mixed with light-colored stones. They look antique and modern at the same time," he says.
As for earrings, he says, silver looks best in soft shapes:
"The drop is more important than the button. A drop is more relaxed. And when it moves, it's sensuous."