Romantic styles give women work dilemma

March 26, 1998|By Elsa Klensch | Elsa Klensch,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I work in the fashion department of a chain of retail stores. I am extremely ambitious and try to keep up with the latest fashions.

For the last two summers I've worn long, straight skirts and crisp tops. They are cool and businesslike and, I think, fashionable.

But now I read that fashion has changed. The look is "romantic," and embroidery, shirring and hand-detailing are in.

I cannot believe dresses like this are meant for working women. What are designers doing?

That mood of fashion has indeed reversed. Romance and hand-detailing are giving minimalism a run for its money.

But that's not such a bad thing: Change is refreshing. When it comes to your office wardrobe, however, it sounds as though you're right on target. Perhaps you could add a softer top for a quick pick-me-up.

But remember that the important thing is that you feel comfortable and look professional.

And while designers often show extreme ideas in their major collections, their less-expensive lines are more wearable.

For example, Issey Miyake showed dreamy, romantic outfits in his major collection, but his Pleats Please line is full of young, fun, washable, everyday separates.

My partner in business, who is also my best friend, wears too much jewelry.

Since jewelry has been her one extravagance all her working life, the pieces are expensive. I know she wears them to the office to show what a success she is, but it just doesn't look right in a place of business.

What's more, I'm frightened that she'll get mugged.

How can I bring this up to her in a friendly manner?

For an answer I went to New York designer Stephen Dweck, who does bold, beautiful jewelry.

"If 'too much' means that her jewelry looks like a matching set such as a necklace, bracelet, earrings and ring that came right out of a store display case," he tells me, "it definitely is too much."

"A subtle approach would be to suggest that she keep her jewelry in her pocketbook at the beginning of the day. Then have her layer it, one at a time, as the day goes on and the evening sets in."

On a recent holiday I tried on a beautiful pair of shoes in a Paris boutique. But they were so expensive I decided to wait and see if I could find a similar pair at a better price in the States.

Once home I found them in a catalog and ordered them in the same size. Much to my disappointment the shoes were so tight my heel bled. Where did I go wrong?

I took your question to Susan Crane, a footwear buyer for Spiegel catalog. She explains:

"The cut of shoes varies from country to country as well as by designer or manufacturer. Any of these factors can affect sizing.

"In your case, you may have bought an Americanized version of the Paris shoe, which could be the cause of the difference in fit."

Crane says that there is no sure way to guarantee perfect fit when ordering shoes from a catalog. Nevertheless, she offers a few tips:

"Before ordering from a catalog, make sure you know the European size conversion -- European shoes tend to run a whole size smaller and are usually cut narrower than shoes made in the United States.

"For instance, a size 7 shoe in the United States converts to a size 38.5 in Europe. If your catalog representative doesn't have a conversion chart, call any specialty shoe store and they could fax or send you one.

"Finally, if you tend to take different sizes in different styles of shoes, as many women do, you may be able to gauge by comparison with a pair of shoes you own of a similar style or from the same manufacturer."

My husband took me to a photo exhibition of 1920s Paris, and I immediately fell in love with the way the women dressed then. Even the streetwalkers had a stylish, sophisticated air, and I especially loved the feather boas they wore. My husband was horrified when I said I wanted a boa. He believes they are outdated, and no woman who wants to look modern would wear one.

I'm afraid your husband is out of touch with fashion. Designers today are using boas to give their outfits pure, instant glamour. London's Katharine Hamnett suggests a lambs wool boa as a sexy version of the 1920s feather boa.

"It is an attention-getting, sophisticated look, incredibly alluring day and night," she tells me. "An added bonus is the softness of lambs wool -- nothing feels greater against the skin."

As a gift for my 16th birthday last week, my unmarried aunt not only bought me a long slinky dress, but took me to have my hair and makeup done professionally.

Everyone said I looked like a model. My parents weren't too happy about it, but I was thrilled every moment. It gave me confidence to realize my secret dream of becoming a model.

I've seen ads for agencies that offer modeling classes and wonder if this is the way to go. My parents want me to finish school, but I want to start right away.

For such a major step I went for professional advice to Eileen Ford, who heads Ford Models. She points out that while it's flattering to have your friends tell you to try modeling, they are friends, not agents. "Some of these agencies are out there to take your money," she says.

"Good agencies do not charge anything for an interview. I suggest you contact one of the top worldwide modeling agencies directly, or call the fashion editor of your local newspaper for the names of reputable ones."

Ford says to keep in mind that your qualifications must conform to current model standards. Some guidelines are: 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-11 in height; good legs, a long neck, healthy hair and clear skin.

"As for weight," she says, "anorexia is not a part of beauty. Good health is essential for a model with a physically demanding schedule." To prepare for a modeling career, Ford says to watch fashion shows on television, read fashion magazines and practice at a mirror.

Pub Date: 3/26/98

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