Q: I saw on some talk show a fashion make-over of nighttime clothing. There was an array of men who dressed like slobs and buffoons before the make-over and looked much more sexy afterwards. My husband isn't that extreme, but I can't convince him that boxers and T-shirts aren't the only clothes for sleeping. Can you put in a vote for my side?
A: Although a woman would not hesitate to buy herself nightgown, a robe, or even silk pajamas, for some reason a man seems to wait for someone to give him his as a gift. And this is certainly the season.
Whether a man is watching an old movie or just lingering over aextra cup of coffee, the relaxed feeling of winding down at home in something comfortable is appealing when colder weather is in the air.
Stepping out of a shower and into a warm robe seems to call foone that's full-length; still some men find to-the-ankle styles cumbersome. And for the man who enjoys an evening cooking up a storm, sleeves that are too long and dip into the spaghetti sauce can be a hazard. Short to-the-knee robes and boxers-to-sleep-in are popular, but it's kind of difficult to feel like Cary Grant in a style that exposes one's knees.
Patterns range from typical Brooks Brothers stripes antattersalls with traditional dark piped edgings to Joe Boxer's line of sleepwear and robes in multicolor motifs of feathers, ducks, fish, elk heads, and Indian chief heads.
Fabrics for robes vary, too, from debonair silk foulards from Sulkto more cozy cotton flannel from Spiegel's. In between are smooth cotton broadcloths and thick, thirsty terry.
There is no law, of course, that says that pajamas and robemust match. In most cases -- unless the giver is feeling generous and extravagant -- they don't. If you really want him to look great at night, buy him both instead of waiting for him to do it. I'm sure he'll wear them.
Q: My family will be taking a cruise in December and our proble concerns our 15-year-old son. We want him to be attired appropriately, of course, but we don't want to spend more than is necessary for clothing and shoes that won't fit by Presidents' Day. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Kids grow fast. If you buy clothes to fit perfectly today, in just a few months they will be too small. And if you buy them to fit six months down the road, the outfit will look sloppy. The trick is not to buy anything that he will never wear again after the cruise.
The basics he'll need are: a navy blue blazer, a pair olightweight gray pants in a poly/wool blend, cotton khakis, one white and one blue or blue-and-white-striped shirt, two ties. These plus the same shorts, jeans, T's, and sport shirts he would wear at home will do fine.
A few time- and money-stretching tricks are:
*Your son is the ideal customer for the off-price stores. Navblazers that would cost $120 (in boys' department) to $300 (in university shops) can be picked up at significant savings in the outlets.
*Shop as near to the date as possible. Wait until just a feweeks before you're ready to go.
*If a size 19 blazer fits perfectly, try a size 20 to give him a littlextra room in the shoulders and stretch the wearing time.
*Even though a year-round-weight hopsacking fabric doesn'hang as nicely as a softer wool flannel, it can still be worn into spring.
*If sleeves are a shade too long, leave them alone. Or, tell thtailor not to give them a hard press so they can be let down.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.