At dances, color can be your partner


Q: I want to buy a dress for a dance my boss' wife is giving in August. My mother says I should be conservative and wear black or at least a neutral. I feel that, as it's a dance and not a board meeting, I should wear something bright and happy. What do you think?

A: I agree with you. Dress to have fun. Your hostess would not be having a dance if she wanted to see the serious side of you.

Carolina Herrera, the New York designer who does some of the prettiest party dresses each season, also agrees:

"I think we have all overplayed our hands with black. It's great for restaurant dinners and the theater, but most women look prettier in colors. And bright colors are definitely most festive and feminine for private parties."

Q: I am a Candice Bergen fan and love the way she dresses on "Murphy Brown." I particularly like those great wing-collar shirts she wears. Can you tell me where I can buy some?

A: I tracked down Bill Hargate, who does the costumes for "Murphy Brown." He says these wing-collar shirts do exist in women's stores but they may take some finding.

He suggests looking in men's formalwear shops.

"They often carry them, and you will probably find a men's small or even a boy's size right for you.

"Dress it up or dress it down," says Mr. Hargate. "They are perfect for many occasions. You can wear them to a party with jeans, or go for a more classy look with a blazer and a long necklace. Let the collar drape over the necklace."

Q: My son is marrying into one of the wealthy social families of our city, and they are throwing a big wedding. When I told the bride-to-be I planned to wear a teal dress with opaque hose and silver accessories she became upset.

The bride is wearing ivory, her mother cream and the bridesmaids dusty rose. Do you think teal is appropriate?

A: Teal is a flattering color and one of my favorites, too. For advice, I turned to bridal consultant and author Lowell Amey. She says that since the colors of the wedding party -- ivory, rose and cream -- are soft and romantic, teal would be too much contrast.

"If you want to wear green, I recommend a sage or perhaps a soft peppermint shade that would complement the bridesmaids' dresses."

For hosiery, she suggests wearing a light color, "a pretty soft blue, celadon or a monochromatic tone -- so the eye stays on the color of the gown rather than being drawn to the legs."

Ms. Amey advises avoiding silver or anything that catches and reflects the light. "Unless worn with something that has equal sparkle, it stands out too much. A good solution is find a shoe store where you can buy peau-de-soie pumps and have them dyed to match your dress. Then it shouldn't be too difficult to find a matching clutch purse at your local mall.

"For a finishing touch, pearls are best. Remember this is the bride's big day, and ultimately all eyes should be on her."

Q: My aunt gave me some of my grandmother's hats several years ago. Gran was a great beauty and had dozens of them. Finally, I took them out and dusted them off. They're beautiful. I have berets, pillboxes with feathers and veiling, cloches and a Panama.

dTC Are these antique hats "in" enough to wear? Can I wear them to work? Do I have to take them off in the elevator?

A: Start wearing them right now. They'll look great with your long summer skirts and dresses. Experiment to see what goes with what. Then start wearing them for special occasions.

Before long you will want to wear hats for work, too. Keep these on the conservative side. But even if you don't, there's no rule that says a lady has to take off her hat in an elevator.

Elsa Klensch is Style Editor for Cable News Network.

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