Q: Your helpful column helped me once before; I hope you can do it again. I'm interested in buying white-collar shirts with different colored chests. In fact, I would like to buy a white collar with a gray chest, a brown chest, and a yellow chest -- these shirts are hard to find. Maybe you can.
A: At first it seemed odd that you would have any trouble at all finding what are called "contrast-collared shirts." This style was extremely popular a few years ago. But then shirt manufacturers decided that most men who wanted them had bought their fill, so they stopped making them. The market was definitely not saturated. Men like these shirts. They add -- to a too-staid outfit. They are debonair without being outlandish. And women love them. Not being either stupid or stubborn, the designers and manufacturers decided to bring them back after a brief hiatus.
Several manufacturers now make this handsome, highly flattering style. If you have hunted for them in department stores, you might have better luck in men's specialty stores -- traditionally smaller, specialized clothing shops, known for personal service and stocking off-beat items. They can be found in such better men's shops as Gage's Gentlemen's Corner, Hamburgers, and Brooks Brothers, especially now. The look is ++ particularly appealing in the spring.
Your color choices may present a slight problem. The most popular combination is a solid blue shirt with a white collar, made in various fabrics: broadcloth, pinpoint Oxford cloth, or the wonderful men's shirting fabric called end-on-end (a weave with alternate cross-yarns of white and color, forming a very fine check). A few companies make end-on-end shirts in gray as well. Easier to find than solid light brown might be a brown-on-white stripe. A true yellow will, no doubt, be the most difficult, although the manager of men's shirts at Brooks Brothers told me they have had a number of requests for them. Of course, special order is a possibility. These shirts are available in various price ranges and in fabrics from all-cotton to blends.
Q: In regard to the person who had his jacket sleeves lengthened, leaving a prominent crease that did not come out with pressing: I had the tailor fix it. My husband experienced the same on a lovely camel-hair topcoat. The tailor stitched four or five rows of very small stitches very close together around the sleeve. It makes a lovely and very neat finish to the sleeve.
A: Such a solution is usually more feasible for women's outfits, because women's styles allow for more variations. Stitches and pleats and tucks can be added without detracting from the basic style. But men's clothes are less adaptable; the designs are highly dictated. I doubt that a man who dresses fastidiously and follows fashion closely would be satisfied with such an answer. A perfectionist would be so aware of the line -- and the unorthodox stitches -- that he would not wear the coat again. For others, it may be fine.
Most smooth textures and solid-color fabrics (such as your camel's hair coat) will show the mark when a sleeve or hem is let out. Where lines are less likely to show are on rough fabrics with busy patterns, such as Harris tweeds, wool plaids, or houndstooth -- anything that has some nap or nubby texture to it.
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.