Ties are no longer out of step on the runway


Q: I am a flight attendant in my mid-30s. Our company's uniform policy allows several options. My favorite is casual slacks, an oxford shirt and a dark tie. I think it looks professional, and it's very comfortable on long flights.

But my colleagues rarely wear this outfit, and I seem to see fewer and fewer businesswomen wearing ties with their suits. Is it unfashionable to wear a tie?

A: Not this year. Ties made quite a comeback for fall on the runways in Milan and New York. Marina Spadafora is one young Italian designer who uses them most effectively. Here's her advice to you.

"Ties are the one accessory we should borrow from men, for they are both snappy and young. I like them in deep colors and good-quality fabrics. A tie is the first thing a person notices, so it must be flattering. As a flight attendant, I'm sure your ties give you a refined, pristine appearance. Keep wearing them."

One tip to remember -- a tie is helpful in disguising a long neck.

Q: I am a large-boned, well-built man who weighs about 260 pounds. My girlfriend calls me "big and burly." I'd like to buy some really good clothes, but when I turn to the magazines all I see are lean, sinewy models in clothes that seem a bit too big for them.

I find the fashions in stores for big and tall men just don't look good on me. My chest is well-developed from lifting weights, but I do have a bit of a gut. What are good styles for me?

A: I got advice from two sources for you, one in London and the other in New York.

In London, Gillian McVey of Paul Smith seems very aware of your problem: "Big men should look for single-breasted suits with low openings. Choose the slimmest silhouette that will fit your body, avoiding anything that is too big and baggy."

She adds that suits without detailing are more flattering and so are well-coordinated dark colors.

"They make the body look longer and leaner. When you have a choice between dark and light, always choose light."

Rodney Hutton, a personal shopper at the New York store Barneys, agrees with Ms. McVey:

"A soft-shouldered, single-breasted suit is great for any big man. But stay away from bold plaids or side stripes."

Mr. Hutton says to avoid shirts with spread collars because they make the neck look thicker. "Go for straight pointed collars that add length to the neck. If you must wear a plaid suit, keep the plaid subtle. Choose cool dark colors like olive. But ties are fair game. Go with what works with the suit."

Mr. Hutton says a big man's casual clothing should be easy and comfortable. "Avoid bold patterns or tight sweaters and don't be afraid to go up a size if it makes you more comfortable."

Q: My husband's company is having a Columbus Day picnic, and I'm unsure about what to wear. He was just promoted to a management position, and we don't know many of the other managers or their wives.

Unlike them, I come from a small town and have never belonged to a country or golf club. My husband is as nervous as I am about my choice. We both want to make a good impression.

A: First of all, don't go out and buy a whole new outfit. It will only make you feel more nervous and look uncomfortable.

The trick is to find a look that is casual but not sloppy. Start with a tried-and-true element from your current wardrobe.

What you choose should also reflect your personal style. If you like to wear pants, consider a walking short or a pleated pant that could be paired with a safari-type jacket. The jacket will be more casual if it is belted. Finish the look with a striped cotton shirt or easy crew-neck knit top.

If you like skirts, you might try a full long skirt with a crisp cotton shirt, rolled-up sleeves and a straw hat.

Q: Since Madonna made it popular years ago, I've dreamed of buying some lingerie and wearing it out to a party.

My problem is that my mother insists that I wait until my 16th birthday.

I turn 16 in three weeks. What should I look for?

A: A lacy slip in the prettiest color you can find could be the answer. That's the look on the runways this year. Pair it with a cardigan in cuddly Angora and you'll look as pretty as a picture. If you want a more sophisticated look, buy a pair of silky pajamas, and pair the pants with a corset that also functions as a bra. You can use the pajama top as a cover-up or tie it slinkily over your hips.

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