Fall's baby-doll look is effective only if not overdone


Q: In the fall collections I saw a lot of what I call "Lolita" looks: models wearing baby-doll dresses, Mary Janes and fold-down socks. I'm tall, in my early 30s, and I've always dreamed about wearing this look, but I'm frightened that at my age I might look ridiculous. What do you think?

A: This look, as part of the retro '60s trend, is important for fall. The secret of wearing it is not to go all-out. Believe me, a total retro look is too costumey, whether you are 13 or 30.

My suggestion is to follow the philosophy of New York designer Anna Sui, who uses retro ideas more successfully than any other designer I know.

Here's what she says: "Do not take the total look. Choose some elements and combine them with clothes you already have.

"For example, you could wear a baby-doll dress with more sophisticated shoes.

But if you really want to wear Mary Janes, skip the fold-down socks.

"If you are worried about your height, try wearing your Mary Janes with a pair of loose pants and a big belt. "Finally, remember you can get away with any look as long as you feel good about what you are wearing."

Q: I studied in Katmandu, Nepal, for my junior year abroad. While I was there my very traditional "host family" encouraged me to get my nose pierced to help me understand the culture. They said it would remind me of them when I returned home.

Now that I'm back home in New York the simple stud I got in Katmandu doesn't look too attractive. And now that my parents have more or less got used to the fact that my nose is pierced, they have offered to buy me something more stylish.

My problem is I don't know what to choose or where to go. Can you suggest jewelry designers who are making interesting nose rings?

I'm also intrigued by the body-piercing I'm seeing at school. Is it really fashionable to have other parts of the body pierced, or is it just a fad?

A: Body-piercing has been around since the cave woman, but it didn't appear on the runways of Paris until five years ago. For several seasons pierced navels were extremely popular with models and with their followers, but the trend seems to have peaked, so I suggest you think twice before you go for another piercing session.

For the latest on nose rings, I checked with Gregg Wolf, a New York jewelry designer.

He says you have a choice of something conservative that will be appropriate for work or a nose ring that has a more ethnic look.

Generally he recommends a stud instead of a ring, especially for the workplace: "Consider a small jewel, perhaps a tiny ruby or diamond stud, in the nose. If you want a highly reflective gem, choose a diamond.

"Don't get anything larger than 10 points. The smaller the gem, the chicer. You can buy a perfect stone with a nice cut without spending a ton of money."

If you decide to get a ring, Mr. Wolf recommends green gold or platinum for its steel-like, gray quality.

"Platinum's density is 2 1/2 times that of silver, and because of its strength, it lasts forever."

Q: My son is getting married in the Caribbean. I'll be spending about a week there and have no idea what to wear.

Some women I know have the knack for putting clothes together without any problems, but I don't. I will be going to lots of parties and need to coordinate my wardrobe. How should I go about it?

A: When I am planning a trip, I write a list of all the events I've been invited to. Then I add the sports and sightseeing outings. Making that initial list helps me feel I'm getting it all under control.

Then I figure out what I have in my wardrobe that will work for these occasions and what I will have to buy.

For advice on colors I turned to Vera Wang, the internationally known New York designer who has planned weddings in a number of exotic locales, including Caribbean islands.

"If you are going to celebrate a wedding there, it is best to take a wardrobe of neutrals like ivory, beige and cream. They are the most flattering colors for the tropics.

"Linen is chic and cool for the hottest time of the year. And it always looks its best in pale colors. Avoid brights such as orange or bright pink."

Ms. Wang says to choose a pared-down-elegance look for the wedding: "There is nothing more exquisite than a simple, light-colored evening gown for a Caribbean wedding.

"For the parties, bring simple, minimal pieces that can be mixed and matched.

I suggest a three-piece suit, a dress and beige pants with a white T-shirt or blouse. And don't forget great sandals."

Elsa Klensch is style editor for Cable News Network.

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