Dress-jacket combo fits anywhere


Q: I have to go to my niece's wedding in September, and I want to buy an outfit that will look glamorous at the ceremony but be useful for the rest of fall. My husband and I have a busy social life. We go to lots of cocktail and dinner parties.

A: A wise choice would be a matching dress and jacket, or even a dress and coat. Both will give you lots of wear.

Oscar de la Renta agrees: "A matching dress and jacket is a glamorous look for parties. It is also as versatile as a suit, as both the dress and jacket or coat can be worn separately. If the dress has more detailing, like re-embroidering, then it can be worn to more formal occasions, perhaps with a beautiful shawl. The coat can be paired with other dresses or skirts and pants."

Mr. de la Renta suggests that you consider a textured fabric for your outfit: "Sophisticated tweeds are new, and they come in glowing, flattering colors. A great change from black."

Q: I am a flower lover. I raise beautiful cymbidiums and orchids and have won many blue ribbons at our local flower show. My husband and I have retired, and we plan to try our luck at the shows in major cities. I hear these shows are much more formal, particularly in the way competitors dress -- that a woman's outfit can even influence the judges.

I don't know if that's so, but I do not want to take a chance. What should I wear to look stylish?

A: For advice, I turned to Betty Anne Brine of Philadelphia, who is a member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Club as well as being socially prominent in the city. She also has won awards for her cymbidiums.

She told me the judges select the winning plants before the show officially opens so what you wear can have no bearing on their decisions.

"You will feel more comfortable if you look stylish, so definitely wear a jacket. This is also important because the buildings are always cool.

"For fall, I suggest tweeds and comfortable walking shoes that can handle the dampness of a flower show floor.

"For summer, a cotton jacket topped off with a light straw hat would be perfect.

"You should also take a roomy shoulder bag to store the goodies and leaflets you will collect. Good luck and happy growing."

Q: Since I was little I've worn hair ornaments in my long, straight hair. Now that I'm a teen-ager, I'm tired of headbands and ponytails. Can you tell me what's new in hair ornaments and some ways to wear them?

A: The trendiest way to dress up hair for summer is with small ornaments, according to New York milliner Anne Vuille, who also designs hairpieces.

Ms. Vuille says the most popular item is the side clip, a simply shaped colored bow or one with fine beading or small flowers.

"They can be worn for function or fashion: To keep hair off the face or, placed strategically, to decorate it.

"Since you are used to wearing headbands, check out the new ones. They are narrow, finely beaded or sleek and shiny in patent leather. You might also try a decorative pony holder that's beaded or made of organza."

Q: I just had my second baby and put on 20 pounds. To get in shape, my husband and I took up biking. Now my firm has instituted a "bike to work" program to help employees get fit and to ease up on the environment.

With all this biking I'm proud to report I have lost the extra pounds and have sculpted my legs into well-toned gams. In fact, I look so great in my biking stretch pants that I'm wondering if I can keep them on after I bike to work. Do you think they are acceptable office attire?

A: I'm sure you look great in your biking pants with your strong, newly developed legs, but biking pants are not work attire. You'll look more professional (and feel fresher) if you change. Think of it this way: You'll have two great looks before you really even start your day, one athletic and one professional.

(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, 218 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, Calif. 90012.

Elsa Klensch is style editor for Cable News Network.

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