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April 28, 1985|MARYLOU LUTHER

Q: I have a thin upper torso and overdeveloped, muscular legs, thighs and rear end. In the gym, I look fat, even though I am firm. I've tried shorts over leotards and I've worn warm-up pants, but both make me look even more pear-shaped than I am. Can you please recommend something for aerobics class that would make me look thinner?--P.N. A: I took your question to Bonnie August, who is not only an award-winning leotard designer but also the author of the book "Looking Thin" ($6.95, Rawson Associates). She recommends the leotard illustrated here, explaining that the V-line slims the entire body. "Wear a leotard that is lighter or brighter than your tights so the eye goes to the leotard and not the tights," August advises. "The leotard should be cut with leg openings that rise high toward the hipbone and down over the side of the thighs. At all costs, avoid a straight-across leg line. Spandex tights are the most thinning in either cotton or nylon blends. They should be a medium-value or neutral color--no fluorescents and no bare legs." August's leotard illustrated here, Style No. 175, is available at selected Nordstrom stores for $24. The fabric is 54% cotton, 36% polyester, 10% spandex. August says that the turquoise or the black combination would do the most for your figure.

Q: What should a man expect to have to pay for a good spring suit?--F.F. A: Luciano Franzoni--fashion consultant for Hartmarx, the country's largest manufacturer of men's tailored clothing--says that prices can range from $250 to $500 for a two-piece suit. "Spending that much money is no guarantee of a fine product," he warns. Franzoni goes on to say that cut for cut, fabric for fabric, and in terms of workmanship, men's clothes generally are better values than women's clothing.

Q: What am I doing wrong? I keep getting lumpy collar notches on the jackets that I sew.--G.G. A: I don't know what product you're using, but according to sewing expert Clotilde, you should be using an undercollar made of Ultrasuede. Clotilde says it can be used with all jacket fabrics, is washable and eliminates the bulk at the collar notch. She says that since the cross-grain of Ultrasuede has more stretch than the bias does, the undercollar can be cut from an 18x3 1/2-inch piece--even less, depending on the size of the collar. Clotilde gives complete directions for finishing the undercollar in her "Sew Smart" pamphlet. For more information, write to her at Imports by Clotilde, 237 South West 28th St., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33315.

Q: I know that this is the season for the big shirt, but I'm a petite, and I have to be careful about the scale of my clothes. I've searched in vain for a camp shirt in my size, which is a size 2. Can you help me find one?--D.H. A: Camp shirts are available in petite sizes 2 to 12 in the current catalogue published by Spiegel, 1040 West 35th St., Chicago, Ill. 60609. They come in white, peach, rose or blue for $20. The fabric is ramie. And in case you don't know about that fiber, it is made from China grass--an Asiatic plant that grows abundantly in the Philippines. It resembles flax but is a bit coarser.

Q: Where can I find a cotton cardigan sweater, preferably in beige? I'm a size 36.--P.N. A: Short-sleeved cardigan sweaters, made of all-cotton and finished with abalone-shell buttons, are available in ivory, soft pink or soft blue from the Tog Shop, Lester Square, Americus, Ga. 31710. They're $47.95 in small (34), medium (36) and large (38). There's a long-sleeved cotton cardigan by Perry Ellis in the current Spiegel catalogue, but it's available only in white with red trim at the front, hem and sleeves. You can get it in petite, small, medium or large for $118.

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