Q: I've noticed the term "color-block" used for women's clothes that look like Mondrian paintings with big colored squares separated by black lines. Is this a new style and will I see it in men's clothes, perhaps in ties?
A: Anything can happen in ties; it's hard to say. Color-blocking is a new style that is very much in vogue these days for women. In the crossover to men's clothes, it's used for sweaters and sport shirts as a weekend look. It is not for business.
Under the umbrella term "color-blocking" are several variations, some of which only vaguely resemble the original concept of Piet Mondrian (a 20th century Dutch painter who used geometric shapes in primary colors). The first wave of interpretations included the authentic black lines between the squares, but most versions now resemble a patchwork of solid colors -- sort of like using different-colored scraps of fabric.
As if on cue, the style has exploded on the women's fashion scene. What makes it color-blocking is not that the colors come in squares or blocks, but that the colors may not coordinate with anything else. In fact, they often clash. The old related-color rules have been ignored.
Color-blocking for men pops up primarily for the haber--ery-wise young (from kids to baby-boomer dads). Sweaters may have a body in one color, the collar in a second shade, and cuffs in yet a third, with some changes occurring right along a sleeve seam.
The one catch is that you cannot mix it with any other pattern.
Q: As I look back at photographs of myself as a child, I see some pictures with me in outfits that I'm embarrassed to let anyone else see (Little Lord Fauntleroy suits). My parents had good clothing taste, and I think I do, but I'm worried that 20 years from now my sons might think the same thing. Where should I look to know what's fashionable for kids' clothes (that don't cost more than mine)?
A: Just as you would do with adult clothes, you should look at magazines and at other kids for clues. It is possible to find clothes that are fashionable and would be considered acceptable to both parent and child at such stores as The Limited, Benetton, and Gap Kids that might not break the family's piggy bank.
Take the kids with you; let them pick out their outfits. They have their own ideas. These companies are brilliant marketing agents. They take into consideration that kids are kids; they can be funky, spunky or more conservative.
With the advent of sweat suits, which come in all price ranges, you can mix and match an unbelievable variety of inventive solids, stripes, and prints. Sweats are a parent's (and a teacher's) dream, because of the convenience. Kids can dress themselves. Small children without fine motor control don't need to deal with buttons or zippers. Sweats give them a sense of independence.
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 companiesaround the country.