I hope you can answer my question. I am a male who is about to take an oral exam for my medical boards. What color suit or sport coat and tie would help give me the best results? Would a beard be acceptable? Thank you very much!
A: What is important in appearance for such an interview situation is being well-dressed and especially well-groomed. Your clothing should make you feel comfortable, because your comfort will affect how you respond and the self-confidence you project.
Medicine tends to be more conservative than the general population. Also, some parts of the country and some medical schools are more conservative than others. In addition, certain areas of medicine are more traditional than others. As a rule, the surgical disciplines tend to be the most conservative. On the other hand, pediatrics and psychiatry are often more liberal.
When taking orals, either a suit or a well-cut navy blazer or beige tweed sports coat is generally fine. If you're not used to wearing a suit, choose a somewhat less dressy type -- a single-breasted in a solid medium gray or blue, not a formal dark pinstripe. A white or blue shirt and any tie that is quietly tasteful (perhaps a burgundy foulard) would work with any of these.
Of foremost importance is neatness. Avoid anything loud or flashy. You don't want your dress to stand out. Let your academic performance be what they remember.
Q: I took your advice and ordered from the Chock catalog cotton xTC socks in sizes (instead of one-size-fits all). Now, do you know anyone selling men's turtleneck dickeys? I haven't seen them for about five years.
Also, do you know who sells "boat neck" sweaters? The last time I saw them they were on the cover of L.L. Bean's catalog about four years ago. I do not care for crew necks. I still have a heavy black boat neck, but it is quite a bit tight for me now. Hope you can help.
A: I'm afraid you won't have much luck with the turtleneck dickey or the boat neck sweater.
Styles -- even men's styles -- come and go. Though most men insist they are not influenced by the winds of fashion, they are often unwitting victims of what is in vogue. As with self-fulfilling prophecies, when manufacturers stop making an item because they think it is out of style, the consumer cannot buy it, and soon it is indeed out of style.
If turtleneck dickeys ever return in women's clothes, which is likely to happen sooner than for menswear, you may be able to buy one. Since a turtleneck has no left-over-right closure and dickeys are not sized, there is little difference between a man's or a woman's version.
The boat neck sweater, with its almost-from-shoulder-to-shoulder slashed opening, is certainly a handsome, comfortable style. Being wider at the neckline, it slips over the head more easily than crew necks. But the only styles available in pullover sweaters these days are crew necks, V-necks, and two- or three-buttoned polo openings.
The old boat neck sweater is nowhere in evidence.
Be patient for a few more years; it was a classic, flattering design that is bound to return. Or if you're lucky, you might find a knitter who's willing to whip one up for you. if you can only find an old pattern!
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, The Evening 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.