Q: We have been invited to an evening wedding that's taking place in mid-August. It will be held at a nearby country club. My tuxedo has "grown" too small. My wife says I can wear the white dinner jacket I bought a few years ago for a cruise. It looks good on me, but I'm not sure if it is appropriate. I know there are some rules about when a white jacket is right and when it is not. Is it
appropriate? If so, what do I wear with it?
A: A white dinner jacket is totally appropriate for a summer evening wedding held in a slightly informal setting, such as a garden, a country club, a resort, a suburban hotel, or even on a ship. In a more formal setting, such as a large church or hotel or at a city club, the typical black-tie evening suit (a.k.a. tuxedo) would be correct.
As I am unsure of the formality of the country club, just to cover yourself from any embarrassment, you may want to check with the host to make sure you will not be the only one wearing a white dinner jacket.
You accessorize a white dinner jacket just as you would any other form of black-tie dress: Black or midnight blue dress trousers, white formal pleated-front shirt, black or midnight blue cummerbund and bow tie, quiet jewelry (studs and cuff links), and black fine kid plain- front shoes or formal patent pumps. A neatly-placed white breast-pocket handkerchief is the only needed embellishment.
Midnight blue has always been classically correct for black-tie wear, but in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find in both dress trousers and dinner jackets. This is not to suggest that other-color aberrations, such as the pastel-colored shirts of the '70s or the more tasteless multicolored brocade cummerbunds and bow ties sets are also in good taste. They are not.
Q: I see your column and I can't help but think of Mary Poppins; very English/ very tailored/ very proper/ very grayish-bluish/ very boring. You seem to see men as sterile objects (without color or flair), and offer a very singular fashion business approach to a very plural world.
My career has spanned a diverse arena; from retail sales in men's and women's wear, police officer, corrections counseling, and a few others, including acting. I have only come across a handful of individuals who have adhered to, or would have adhered to, your ethos, from New York to Los Angeles to `D Houston to Atlanta to Chicago (all of which I have lived in).
Lighten up, Lois, the world according to the prime minister isn't necessarily so.
A: It's always interesting to hear from men who enjoy fashion and doing something different. But most of the people who write to me are more concerned with dressing for an interview, what to wear at work, and what is appropriate for social situations. They want to know what is generally acceptable.
Of course you are correct, there has been a dramatic change in VTC men's fashion throughout the country this past year (much faster than the pendulum normally swings), particularly in major urban centers. Colored accessories and double-breasted suits are more common than ever. You are, however, reading into my column opinions that I do not have. When I advocate that a man should start with classic styles and basic rules, I do not mean that he should end there. I always emphasize quite the opposite.
It is my mission to encourage men to expand their clothing horizons, to look around, observe elements of individuality, and to insert subtle bits of distinction while staying within the framework of good taste. It has always been true that men in the so-called glamour industries dress with panache. But men with good taste on both sides of the fashion fence still belong to a relatively exclusive club.
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.