Q: I want to buy myself a new outfit for spring. And when I say outfit, I mean it. I travel a lot and I want to use it for the basis of the three- and four-day business trips I take regularly.
I'm interested in a coat and suit or a coat and dress -- something that has a modern approach to dressing.
A: Bill Blass put together an unusual spring outfit in black and white gingham that may give you some ideas. It's a coat, a long vest and a black patent skirt.
"I like the range of possibilities it gives a woman," he says. "The coat has an easy cut that will slip over dresses, suits and pants. The vest goes with the skirt, but can also be worn as a short snappy dress by itself.
"Put a long-sleeved bodysuit under it for day, leave it bare for evening. The black patent skirt will add -- to jackets, tunics and sweaters a woman already has in her wardrobe."
Black and white is the basis of the wardrobe. A touch of gingham check gives --.
Q: All of my life I've been self-conscious about my thin legs. I wear pants or boots in the winter and long skirts and dresses in the summer.
But this season I want to go short. What should I do to make my "bird legs" seem more substantial?
A: As with any figure fault you are trying to play down, you want to make your legs inconspicuous. To do this, Barbara Guzy of Penaco -- producer of Christian Dior, Givenchy and Anne Klein hosiery -- suggests you wear opaque hose to make your legs look fuller.
"Wear hosiery in the same color family as your shoes and skirts. The colors do not need to be a perfect match, but it is important that you select tones from the same family and then meld them.
"This will reduce the attention to your legs, because they will be an extension of the whole look."
Another point to remember -- avoid heavy-looking shoes. They will only make your legs seem fragile.
Q: I need some advice when it comes to hats. I love them, but I don't know which hat style fits my frame. I'm a tall (6-foot-3), thin brunet with curly brown hair.
I really love veils and lots of "trimmings." Is that considered too much for someone my size? Can you recommend a good hat to fit my frame for everyday wear?
A: Millinery designer Patricia Underwood has a practical approach to help you find the perfect hat. The New York-based English hatter tells me: "In choosing a hat it's essential to understand that proportion is the name of the game. It's best to find a suitable hat by trying it on in front of a full-length mirror in the type of outfit you will most likely be wearing.
"And keep in mind that a hat is the most attention-getting accessory a person can wear. So it should reflect a sense of personal style. It is best to choose a hat -- including its ornamentation -- that is comfortable and reflects your own tastes and attitudes."
In selecting a hat for everyday wear, Ms. Underwood advises you to "coordinate the color and style of your hat with the color and style of your clothing."
I am going to a garden party in Buenos Aires, where my husband has recently been assigned. I want to look cool and crisp but not overdressed. What would you advise?
Linen is the coolest way to go. It's dressier than cotton and not as formal or as delicate as silk.
New York designer Carolina Herrera, who comes from Caracas, Venezuela, has attended many such functions. She suggests a dress: "A dress is easier to wear and looks more feminine than a suit. If it turns chilly, you can always slip on a jacket. A dress is easier to accessorize, too. You just have to play with your jewelry."
Choose a flower color for your dress, and you'll look charming in the garden. Have a good time.
We just moved into a new apartment with well-lighted closets. As I hung up my clothes I suddenly realized that several pieces I thought were black are really dark blue.
I've been wearing them without a thought, but now I feel self-conscious about them. Am I being foolish, or do black and dark blue go together?
I turned for advice to New York designer Geoffrey Beene, who has as fine a sense of color as any designer I know. He faxed me this answer from his hotel in Paris:
"Black is elegant with the deepest shade of midnight blue. Other shades of blue can be questionable, because they can make black look cloudy. It would be difficult to wear a third color with black and an imperfect shade of blue."
"Next time you go shopping, go to a store that has windows so you can check the color in daylight."
This is also a good tip when you shop for black. It comes in many shades, depending on the fiber mix of the fabric. Quite often one black can make another look a dusty gray.
Elsa Klensch welcomes questions from readers. While she cannot reply individually, she will answer those of general interest in her column. Send questions to Elsa Klensch, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Times-Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.