Q How can I be sure if I buy the clothes I see in fashion advertisements that they will stay in style and not just turn out to be a passing fad?
A: A fad is something that is in for one, or at the most, two seasons, and then begins to change or disappear. A rapid exaggeration is the first clue that this is going to occur. Remember the Nehru jacket!
A more current example: Armani (that slavishly followed prophet of the modern dresser) in just three seasons went from designing jackets with no shoulders, to very broad shoulders, to jackets with no shoulders (his new slouch suit). This too-rapid jumping around is an indication of fad.
When ties become much wider quickly, watch out. It's not for long. On the other hand, if they creep up a little each season, as they have been doing recently, then a longer-lasting trend is in the making.
When something is around more than two or three years, such as wearing braces (suspenders) or pleated pants, men start to think about it seriously: "Maybe this is something I ought to try." On the other hand changes such as weird collars, odd-shaped shoulders, and departures from natural-fiber fashions, suddenly found in the trendier stores, prompt men to be cautious: "No, I might want to wait for a few years."
Q: If cuffs are so much more elegant and proper on well-dressed men's trousers, why are they wrong on tuxedo trousers? Also, what length should formal trousers be?
A: Black-tie dressing is the one time when cuffs are never worn.
Formal trousers should be a shade longer than daytime trousers; they should break on top of the shoe. The back should not cover the heel, but it should come just to the top of the heel. If you are going to make a mistake, it's better to err on the side of pants that are too long. This is always true but especially with cuffless trousers, where there is no extra fabric to be found hidden inside the cuff to readjust the hem.
No matter how much care is taken, every garment shrinks slightly in the cleaning and pressing process (not only cotton items, but wool as well). Most better tailors know to make the pants on formal wear slightly longer, but it never hurts to mention it as you are being fitted.
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.