Severe shoulders are giving way to a softer look


Q: I recently bought a summer jacket with what I thought were very snappy broad shoulders. It made me feel and, I thought, look more confident. Now my husband says it makes me look like a gangster from an old movie.

Is there a formula for determining how broad-shouldered a jacket should be so that it is in proportion to my rather slim hips? And am I or my husband right?

A: I'm afraid I agree with your husband, and so does New York designer Carolina Herrera.

"I know he is right without even seeing the suit," she said. "Today's style is about having a proportion that balances the figure. It's a feminine, flattering silhouette."

Ms. Herrera suggests that when you shop for your next jacket look for "a shoulder that is more conforming to your body. For example, you might try rounded shoulder pads -- not square -- that follow the natural slope of the shoulder."

Q: I am an architect who has an old tuxedo that doesn't really fit anymore. My company is becoming much more successful, and I'm being invited to tons of parties. I want a new tux, but all the ones I try on look too dressy and ornate. What I really want is something that looks good but is not too serious.

A: I turned to Wolfgang Joop, a German designer who sells both in Europe and the United States, to help you with your decision.

He describes three categories of tuxedos: simple, decorative and festive.

Simple tuxedos have one- to three-button jackets with moderate finishing -- lapels, buttons, side leg lines and pocket flaps. Simple tuxedos use fabrics with little or no texture. "This tuxedo looks best when worn with a plain shirt that has few or no pleats," he says. "It will get you through the evening unscathed."

Decorative tuxedos have richer fabrics, more texture, a fuller lapel and are often double-breasted. "When you put one on, it makes you stand up straight, and you will certainly get noticed. Wear with gold, silver or platinum cuff links."

Festive tuxedos have more of everything -- more ruffles, color, shine. "You'll have a lot of good times in a festive tuxedo, but it will cost you more in dry-cleaning bills."

Mr. Joop offers a few alternatives if you decide against getting a new tuxedo. He suggests sprucing up your old tux by changing the way you wear it or by adding to it.

"If you're young and clever, you can get away with a lot. For a young party, put on a big old pair of black boots, or chuck the tie and mess up your hair for a great rock 'n' roll look. You can even wear a big old watch on your wrist over your jacket sleeve -- but wear it with the face down. That is a very cool look on the right guy.

"Throw your jacket over your shoulders -- it worked for Cary Grant. And don't forget, wearing a simple turtleneck under your suit is always a good look."

Mr. Joop suggests considering your options before accepting an invitation to a formal party.

Q: Is it really true that nude stockings are coming back into fashion? I have thick legs, and for work in summer I always wear a taupe gray with my short skirts. The color softens the line of my legs and, I feel, makes them look thinner. Nude hose not only make my legs look fat, but also reveal all my veins and blemishes.

I feel that the nude leg is an imposition designers are making on women and that we should ignore them. Don't you agree?

A: Quite simply, designers no longer have the power to impose their designs on women. They realize that the extent of their power is to offer choices. So, if you don't like nude hosiery, there's no reason in the world why you should wear them.

Many designers showed nude hosiery in their collections because they, like many women, have grown tired of the dark legs we've been wearing for 10 years. And nude legs do generally look prettier with the pastels and neutrals now so much in favor.

Elsa Klensch is style editor for Cable News Network.

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