Q My wife and I are trying to decide how to dress our little boy for church. Neither of us likes to see children dressed up like grown-ups, but we feel he should be dressed appropriately. When he was smaller, he wore sweaters and such. Now he's ready for something else, but certainly not a man's suit. Must it be a blazer? What are your ideas?
A: I agree with you that little boys often look ridiculous dressed up like miniature men. They may seem cute, but they never look comfortable. Childhood is short. Why not enjoy it?
Selecting a go-to-church wardrobe can be a lesson in compromise: a bit of the baby, a bit of the big boy. A shirt, sweater and pants combination remains a good mix for little boys. This depends in part on what everyone else in the congregation wears -- you may or may not be in a "keep-up-with-the-Joneses" situation. Sweaters may be classic V-neck pullovers, colorful crew necks, soft turtlenecks worn alone or layered under a shirt, or -- most grown-up of all -- a cardigan that almost substitutes for a blazer.
For the style-conscious child, something new has been added -- the funky tie. It can be worn most traditionally with a blazer and trousers. Or it looks sharp with a striped chambray shirt tucked into brushed trousers. One strong reservation: most feel that jeans -- even clean and pressed ones -- do not project the respectful spirit associated with church clothes.
The tie adds a grown-up flair that helps eliminate the absolute necessity to wear a blazer. A shot of bright color distracts the eye. Actually, harder than anything else may just be keeping a young man's shirttails tucked neatly into his pants.
Q: My wife, daughter, and I have different points of view as to what color shirts I can wear a maroon tie with (my daughter calls it "burgundy"). To give none of us an unfair chance in this contest, I'll list all the clothing involved. I'll be wearing them with a gray wool herringbone sport coat that has a faint touch of brown. I have gray slacks, brown slacks, tan, and a blue pair.
Shirt colors are: canary yellow, turquoise green, blue, pale yellow with faint white stripes, and solid pale pink shirt.
A: Let's us begin with the slacks. Presuming that the herringbone in the jacket is a light-to medium gray, I would say that dark gray or dark blue pants are best. Tan is probably too light and too spring-like for the wintry texture of the sport coat. And brown slacks are frought with too many tacky-tone possibilities: too light equals not enough contrast; too reddish has a Las Vegas look; the smart shade called taupe is difficult to harmonize with gray.
As for the shirts, some of them would work with your maroon tie and some do not work with anything! Definite "yeses" are the blue, both pinks, and the white with red stripes -- these colors are always good especially with dark blue trousers. And the pale yellow-and-white shirt is a breezy, unexpected look that's great with a gray tweed jacket -- almost conservative, but with a bit of fTC --. Pale yellow is a color that men too often overlook in their shirt and sweater wardrobes.
Canary yellow is another story. It is too bright and colorful with a jacket and tie. And turquoise green shirts do not "make it" in elegant dressing circles. Bright colors are best for sportswear and T-shirts.
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.