Q I am a 28-year-old man, 5 feet, 3 inches tall, weigh 125 pounds, have a 28-inch waist, 28-inch inseam, 36-inch chest.
I cannot seem to find any adult style dress clothes. They will not alter to make the suit fit. When I buy dress slacks too long and get them hemmed, they turn out like baggies. Please print this letter to help me and others with my problem.
A: As you have discovered, alterations on regular-sized clothes do not provide a correct fit. Snipping fabric from a suit for a 5-foot-10 frame produces a silhouette that looks baggy and ridiculous on a man who stands 5-foot-3. And buying in the boys' department is not only bad for the ego, it is not a real option.
One of the most vexing problems is finding pants that fit. What matters is the length of the "rise" (distance from the crotch to the waistband) and something known as the "knee notch." It is important to buy pants with a short rise, designed for a man under 5-foot-8.
Almost no department stores stock extra-short suits. In my research I have discovered three specialty stores that do. One is the decidedly upscale (read: expensive) Barneys in New York. One is a Cleveland store, Short Sizes, that caters entirely to men between 5-feet and 5-foot-8; mail order is their major business. Call (216) 475-2515 for a catalog. The largest specialty store for quality short sizes in North America, Brown's Short Man, is in Toronto, (416) 489-1975. Their extra short is for the man from 5-foot-2 to 5-foot-5. Their short is 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-8. With the right information, their helpful staff will send suit swatches or ship shirts, socks, braces, pants, sweaters, even suits and outerwear.
Brown's suits range in chest sizes from 34 to 50. They adjust the neckline on suits, because short men stand erect. (They say tall men tend to slouch.) Back pockets are raised so a man is not sitting on his wallet. Shirt sizes are 14 to 17 1/2 with sleeves from 29 to 32 inches. Pockets are raised so they don't look like nightshirts.
Q: A number of the fellows in my office have a question for you that seems to afflict us all -- yellow underarms on our dress shirts. As I move up in business I enjoy wearing more expensive shirts. What I cannot handle is the yellowing of the underarms after one to two years. I wash them after each wearing and have tried many cures. Is it antiperspirant that is causing this yellowing? What can we do about it, short of wearing undershirts?
A: I will begin by advising what you don't want to hear: Not only is wearing an undershirt a more elegant way of dressing, but it would help your problem tremendously. Most men who buy better shirts protect them by wearing undershirts. That said, let's see how I can help.
Some staining comes from perspiration, some from antiperspirants, plus the build-up of body oils and their interaction with the fabric. It is a combination of all of these that causes yellowing.
According to Dr. Ray Obendorf, chairman and professor of textiles and apparel at Cornell University, the answer is to get good removal as soon after wearing as possible. The process: Treat before laundering (apply detergent directly onto underarms and collar and let soak for a minute or two), wash soon after soiling, use hot water, good agitation, and proper concentration of detergents. High heat in the drying and ironing stage plus any residual perspiration and antiperspirant can set the stain and cause a color change.
My best advice: Put on deodorant, allow it to dry thoroughly, then dust with talcum powder. You don't transfer the excess antiperspirant to the shirt fabric.
For shirts that have already yellowed, bleach can remove some staining caused by residual body oils. First, soak with an enzyme product such as Axion, Biz, Wisk or Era in hot water for at least 30 minutes (be careful, because hot water will set blood or food stains). Even if you do your own laundry, an occasional professional treatment can do wonders toward whitening your 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.