Brighten your casual wardrobe with color

DRESS FOR EXCELLENCE

March 11, 1992|By Lois Fenton

I never have a problem putting myself together for work. The suit, shirt, and tie formulas I have down pat, and I would say I'm considered well-dressed by my colleagues. But when it comes to the weekend, there are too many options. I guess this is the problem women face every day. What do I need to do differently for casual clothes?

A: Color is your big option. Use it. Revel in it. It is fun. It is flattering. And it costs nothing. You can make a totally different impact wearing a luxurious pure white sweater or bright yellow jacket instead of the old safe standby, a navy top, over a pair of khaki pants. This season, shades of Granny Smith apple green over blue denim make a unique, fresh combination. Or combine traditional colors in fanciful patterns, as Henry Grethel did with navy, burgundy and white sweaters he designed for the U.S. Olympic athletes at Albertville.

Perhaps the most consistent complaint I get from men is, "Why can't I wear what I like? Why do clothes have to be so regulated? Only certain colors are appropriate and accepted in the business world. Anything bright is out of the question except in a tie. It's so dull."

Yet, when it comes to weekend wear or any casual social situation, men act as if they must stay within these same limiting rules of color and (lack of) --. Absolutely not true.

The well-dressed man who wears only dark blue and gray suits to work, with an occasional diversion to tan in warmer weather, need not restrict himself in his sportswear. But usually he does. Perhaps out of laziness, or more likely, out of fear of doing something outlandish. The rules for sportswear are totally different. You can be as imaginative and distinctive as you like. The man in too-colorful business clothes may be an embarrassment. But no one thinks a man in a bright-colored sports shirt, a vivid leather jacket, or a many-hued, patterned sweater is an oddball.

Q: I have two pairs of wool knickers that I occasionally wear for golf. They came pressed with a front and back crease in the manner of full-length wool trousers, and I keep them that way. A friend says knickers should not be creased.

A: As supportive as I am of innovative dressing, this is not typical menswear. Still some stylish golfers, with Payne Stewart leading the way, do like the look of knickers on the fairways. I'm afraid, generally speaking, your friend is correct. Knickers (both men's and women's) should be draped and uncreased. The style is to have them puff softly over the sock. But no matter what you do, no matter what you tell them, invariably, dry cleaners seem to press a crease into every pair of pants. Unless you have an excellent cleaner, you are likely to have this problem.

Most stores are not set up to hang any style of trousers full length from the waistband. They display all their trousers the same way, folded and hung on hangers. So, though the manufacturer may not have made them that way, the store probably developed the creases that came pressed into your knickers.

Once it has been set, it is not likely that the dry cleaner can $$ remove a sharply pressed mark, even with steaming and pressing. The line will remain in a semi-permanent state. But don't worry about it -- it is hardly a major clothing faux pas. Besides, so few men have the style or self-confidence (some would say chutzpah) to wear knickers on the golf course, that they are probably not aware of the "rules" governing their correct use. Just add a colorful pair of argyle socks, a beautiful Scottish Fair Isle sweater, and you'll look great on the links.

Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, 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.

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