Q I have a nice pocket watch that was given to me at my retirement. How is this watch worn?
A: When vested suits were in vogue, the pocket watch commonly dangled across a man's chest (occasionally perilously close to his belly) in a position of prominence.
Today, when vests are not worn on traditional suits, the watch is carried in the watch pocket (a tiny slitlike opening just below the waistband of the trousers), or if the suit does not have one, in either side pocket of the trousers. The chain then drops in a small U-shape and attaches discreetly to the nearest belt loop (between the pocket and the belt buckle) by means of the round clasp at the end.
Men's jewelry looks best when it is simple. The watch chain should be in proportion to the size of the watch and should be long enough to curve nicely without too much hanging excess. Even though the watch is new, an antique chain is a nice accompaniment.
The pocket watch is worn with a suit or with casual blazers and country tweeds.
Q: I know that black-tie dressing should be classic. I like the idea of investing once in an outfit that will stay in style for years. Still, sometimes I want to be a little more wild. I enjoyed your wing-collar article. What else can I do to insert something different into black-tie?
A: The suit is always black. The shirt is always white with vertical pleats in front and with French cuffs. These are the basic black-tie parameters. But beyond the classic rules, it is fun to introduce a few variations.
That's why the wing-collar shirt (designed for white tie and tails) has become so popular with black tie. It may not meet protocol, but it is dashing and very flattering.
So, too, are whimsical braces (suspenders). For an inaugural ball at the White House or a debutante cotillion, a man should not break with tradition. Correct formal-wear braces would be white or black silk, usually moire (pronounced mor-ay', a wavy pattern fabric that looks like rippling water). But for some festivities where black tie or "creative black tie" is called for, oversized black-and-white polka dots can be more fun.
At not-too-formal black-tie parties, other variations have a certain youthful appeal. Wearing everything properly correct and no tie at all is one way. For a Western flavor you might include a bolo tie or black lizard boots.
Occasionally, off-beat cummerbunds and colorful bow ties are appropriate. But two-of-a-kind bright cummerbunds and bow ties are not as sophisticated as one in a pattern (perhaps a plaid) and the other in traditional black. Unfortunately, a red cummerbund and matching bow tie are too reminiscent of Chippendale's and other "gals night out" clubs.
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.