A-line and chemise are easy looks for business dress


August 04, 1994|By Elsa Klensch | Elsa Klensch,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I am an assistant to an attorney and often go with him to court. During my 10 years in the job I've worn suits. Now it appears that dresses are back, and I want to buy two for fall. They must be businesslike and comfortable.

What do you suggest?

A: I took your question to Hungarian-born New York designer Adrienne Vittadini, whose specialty is knits. When it comes to comfort, she says, knits are unsurpassed. Her suggestion for a working dress is an easy chemise. She does one in navy wool with an argyle pattern in fine red, white and yellow stripes.

For warmth she layers it over a turtleneck sweater. "It has a casual look, but I think there's an elegant aspect, too. I showed it with black pantyhose and boots, but it looks just as good with high- or flat-heeled shoes.

"Dresses to look for include flippy A-lines. Some have the feel of a high-waisted silhouette because the shaping starts from the high armhole and is contoured under the bust. It's a young silhouette that hasn't been around for a long time.

"Another good buy is a dress with a cardigan the same length. It certainly is comfortable and practical. The two worn together can go to quite formal occasions.

"I recommend buying a neutral shade -- taupe, vicuna or brown -- that fits in with those already in your wardrobe.

"You can then substitute the long cardigan for a suit jacket. This gives you a softer, more feminine look that will work with both pants and skirts."

Ms. Vittadini adds that surface texture makes knits look new for fall: "I love all the novelty yarns, tweeds, boucles and mohairs."

Q: What makes a supermodel? My daughter was a model for two years at a top agency in New York and then suddenly quit. She said she'd never make it to the top, and she was sick of being rejected. Yet she is beautiful and photographs well from every angle. She's 5-foot-10 and weighs 120 pounds. To me she has everything. Where did she miss out?

A: There's no doubt supermodels have a lot more going for them than their good looks. I can't tell you what your daughter "lacks," but here are some key supermodel attributes as explained to me by three experts that may give you a lead.

Katie Ford is co-president of Ford Models, which her parents Eileen and Jerry started in 1946. She sees models from Japan to Argentina, day in and day out, and she says only two out of 100 models become stars:

"A supermodel must have incredible beauty, a fantastic figure and an extroverted personality.

"She must be totally driven to build her career and keep in mind that the world of fashion changes constantly and so must she. So she must be willing and able to re-create her image at any time.

"She needs to be totally flexible about her working schedule and have great stamina. She has to look as good getting off a plane in Tokyo as she did getting on in New York.

"She must take great care of her skin and hair, watch her diet and follow an exercise routine to keep her body in shape.

"Personality is also very important, and she must know how to deal with people in all sorts of trying circumstances. I'd say the difference between a good working model and a girl who becomes a star is her personality."

New York designer Todd Oldham, who uses models constantly, says supermodels have a "twinkle, a sparkle, a different quality," adding:

"You can call it 'star quality,' because they really are the movie stars of our generation. They know how to hold themselves on the runway, how to move, how to stay in the lights so the photographers get the best shots. They know their best angles and, like movie stars, they work those angles.

"They don't trend out because they stay on top of fashion changes and adapt quickly. They also have what I call 'grace,' which really comes down to a good disposition."

And Naomi Campbell, who has been a supermodel almost since she started seven years ago, says she's kept on top because she considers herself "an actress."

"You have to play many roles, be aware of what the designer or stylist wants and always be ready to change your look.

"Disciplining myself was hardest for me. I've changed a lot since I started.

"There are so many things to take care of -- from shopping for the right food to meeting with my accountant. I've learned that being disciplined is the only way to keep my life running smoothly."

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