Q: As you said in a recent column, suspenders make trousers hang better. But that's only half of the story.
Unlike women, we men don't have much in the way of hips to support our trousers. This is no great problem when wearing tight-fitting jeans or when slim-legged, plain-front pants are the style. But when baggy, pleated-front trousers are the vogue, the slim man has but two choices: cinch his belt good and tight or wear comfortable, practical suspenders.
A: You may just have hit upon the reason that so many men wear their belts pulled too tight, resembling a gunny-sack.
These days, every bit of publicity that comes from the men's clothing industry says the same thing: For casual clothes "big is in." Oversized shirts and sweaters are stylish weekend wear. Pleated pants are popular. Even jeans makers have adopted unexpected terminology: "generous cut," "easy styling," "relaxed silhouette," and "anti-fit." These all mean the same thing . . . skin-tight styles are out of vogue.
The new comfort is directly related to the active life men enjoy. Sports-developed shoulders and thigh muscles need more room.
Why not enjoy today's combination of colorful braces (suspenders) and pleated pants? The style not only offers comfort, but is a welcome way to add zip to a conservative outfit.
With or without braces, for trousers to fit well, the secret is talking to the fitter before buying them. Don't bring him a possible pair to begin sculpting. Ask him which manufacturer makes a style that works for your body. Often the salesman knows the answer; the tailor always does. The man with "no hips" might need a "short-rise" style; no amount of belt cinching will help. You are right that with flat hips (a euphemism for a small seat), braces are best.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.