Question: I love the Chanel suit--the real thing--the Adolfo, the St. John Knit. Alas, I can afford none of the above. At a minimum of $1,295 plus $450 for the blouse, the Karl Lagerfeld-designed Chanel wool suit will probably elude me forever. Can you suggest a cardigan knit suit, with blouse, for less than $200? I wear a size 14.
Answer: The three-piece knit suit illustrated here is not a Chanel copy, it's a real Vivanti, designed by Ilse Smith. The cardigan ($80), striped top ($56) and white pleated skirt ($62) are part of a travel wardrobe that also includes navy pants ($60). It's available at Bullocks Wilshire in navy and white only, sizes 8 to 18. The knit fabric is 65% acrylic, 25% polyester and 10% nylon.
Q: I was appalled at your fashion tip on the too-tight collars. It may seem fashionable to you to look like a slightly overweight, unkempt newspaperman, but to the professional or the person who really cares about style, properly fitting clothes will always be the true fashion. There are two reasons men wear too-tight collars--(1) men gain weight, and (2) shirts shrink. That comes from Mortimer Levitt's "The Executive Look--How to Get It, How to Keep It," a book I recommend highly to anyone sincerely interested in looking good in clothes. Obviously, the reader's husband worked hard to develop his physique, and you gave him tips on how to hide it. You should have suggested either buying a rack shirt and having the collar altered or buying a custom shirt.--D.L.H.
A: The reader was looking for two things--a way to save all the shirts that no longer fit her husband because of his weightlifting, and a source for ready-made shirts with 18 1/2-inch collars and trim bodies. I'll stand my ground that it is presently considered fashionable to leave the top button of your shirt unbuttoned and wear it with a loosened tie, a la Ed Asner. This look was recommended, of course, to solve the reader's problems with too-tight collars. When you say that properly fitting clothes always will be true fashion, you ignore the current high-fashion trend toward oversize clothes.
The owner of a clothing store specializing in classic design for both men and women has come up with the 18 1/2-inch-neck, button-down shirt that the reader originally requested. He's Paul Norick of Norick & Co. in Westlake Village, and he says that Levitt is wrong in his assertion that too-tight collars can be caused by shrinking shirts. At least that's not the case in today's shirt market, Norick asserts, explaining that most shirts now are sized a quarter-inch larger than the size printed inside the shirt to allow for first-wash shrinkage. For example, if your shirt size states 18 1/2 inches, it will measure 18 3/4 inches when you buy it new.
Right now, such shirts are available for about $22 at Norick & Co. By Sero, they're made of polyester-cotton, and they're available in neck sizes 14 1/2 to 18 1/2, all with trim bodies. Norick also points out that shirts with button-down collars have higher neck bands than shirts with wing collars. This fact, he says, often makes them feel tighter than other shirts.
Q: Please help me find a garter belt with some support. The dainty satin versions are useless for control, and the orthopedic-looking styles in most catalogues are too bulky. I need a large size. --H.K.
A: How about a two-way-stretch garter belt? Vassarette makes one with a stay-flat tummy panel and seamless sides and back; it costs $8.95. It's available in white only, waist sizes small (24-26), medium (26-28), large (28-30) and extra large (30-32). Write to National Wholesale Co. Inc., Lexington, N.C. 27294. That company also sells difficult-to-find 100% cotton panties (full briefs, not bikinis) in sizes 4 to 10, white only. Minimum order is six pairs for $11.95. For those who prefer straight-leg cotton panties, these too are available in sizes 5 to 10, white only, $14.95 for six pairs.