The little black dress changes mood dramatically with the right accessories


March 23, 1995|By Elsa Klensch | Elsa Klensch,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, but moved to the United States five years ago for college. I'm going back for my first visit this spring and am looking forward to seeing my old friends. I know I'll be taken out to the new bars and clubs, and I want to look great.

In fact, the image I want to project is that of a "with it" New Yorker. What should I buy?

A: Nicole Miller is a designer who's in touch with the club life in New York, so I went to her for advice for you.

She suggests a great but simple black or navy dress in "Jackie O" or '60s style that you can accessorize in different ways.

Here are her suggestions: "Try a leather jacket, a cropped sweater, a great scarf, knee-high boots or even a fantastic brooch.

"But don't wear them all at once. Over-accessorizing is out for the '90s. One great piece can change the mood of the dress dramatically and give whatever look you want."

Q: I have an extremely active great-aunt, who at the age of 86 will only wear pants and tunic tops. No matter what the occasion -- weddings, funerals or shopping outings -- there she is in the same outfit.

I've tried to get her to buy at least one dress, but she says pants and tops make her feel and look 15 years younger. I think that even at 86 she needs a little fashion in her life. Do you agree?

A: You're fighting a losing battle. Comfortable clothing is important to all of us, and at 86 even more so.

I suggest you dress her up by shopping for accessories with her. The addition of a necklace or pretty scarf can instantly change the mood of a tunic.

And don't forget hats. As they get older, many women like to wear hats to hide thinning hair. They can be glamorous, too.

I've seen some 80-year-olds looking absolutely smashing in turbans.

Q: We are having a big family reunion to celebrate my grandmother's 95th birthday. About 100 of us are expected. A professional photographer will take a portrait of each person in the family as well as group pictures.

I want to look my very best in the photos, but when I have my picture taken I always look older than I am and so uncomfortable. What can I do avoid this?

A: The problem you describe is a common one. When people feel they are being observed, they tense up and appear quite unnatural. For advice I turned to New York's celebrated portrait and fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo. He has shot some of the world's most beautiful women -- actresses, models and socialites -- and managed to make them look even more beautiful.

He says, "If you tend to look old in photographs you should apply only a very light and natural makeup. Always wear white around the face for reflection. Movie stars often wear white, because the reflected light fills in the lines and makes you look younger."

Mr. Scavullo also recommends that you "practice your facial expression in the mirror. Have a friend take Polaroids. This will XTC help you become more comfortable in front of the camera. You can also use these shots to help apply your makeup in preparation for the great day.

"Keep in mind that everyone has a good side and a bad side. Find out which is your good side. You can do that by turning to the left and right of the camera, then head on. Take shots smiling and not smiling."

Mr. Scavullo's final words of advice are very important. I've heard them from models time after time. "While having your photograph taken you must 'turn on.' Feel positive and wonderful -- forget all the negatives and that positive feeling will come across beautifully in the photograph."

Q: I've just come back from my sister-in-law's wedding and I am still in shock. For the ceremony the bride wore a lovely traditional gown and the groom a dark suit. But then, for the reception, the bride changed into a granny dress and boots and the groom into a lounge suit and sneakers.

Told to wear what they liked, the guests did so. They turned up in everything from tuxedos to shorts. I think the whole approach was a disgrace. A wedding should be a time of solemnity combined with a bit of formality. One should have respect for the seriousness of the vows that are taken. Don't you agree?

A: I'm not aware of a wedding day dress code that guarantees a couple will live happily ever after. So I subscribe to the view that a wedding is a time for the bride and groom to decide on the kind of event they want and to do their own thing. Your sister-in-law and her new husband had the self-confidence to be somewhat unconventional in starting off their new life together. It's not for everyone, but for those who like it, why not?

(Elsa Klensch welcomes questions from readers. While she cannot reply individually, she will answer those of general interest in her column. Send questions to Elsa Klensch, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Times-Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.)

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