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Faux Pas Report

The Sporty Jacket Is All Wet for Work: Gentlemen Need an Overcoat of Sorts


Winter is winding down, but we're still facing some cool, and even wet, mornings as we make our way to work. Unfortunately, most people don't have a high enough rank in the company to warrant a parking space near the front door, and a brisk walk through the elements is the way they start the day.

Guys who go to work in blazers or suits are presented with a bit of a fashion problem. When it's cold or drizzly, they'll show up at the office wearing a sporty, bright, light jacket in place of an overcoat. And while they may only be wearing it from the door to the desk, it can make an impression.

"You don't have to have a traditional overcoat; in fact, you don't usually need one living here," says John Shaw of Alex Sebastian in Costa Mesa. "What you need is a basically neutral jacket that covers your suit coat."

To fill the need, try a tame ski parka or some of the other lighter, sportier jackets that have good long sleeves and that drop low enough to at least cover your wallet. And don't freak out about your wallet shrinking when you buy one; most outerwear jackets are on sale now.

Shoulder politics: In a perfect world, you could wear heart-patterned pink underwear as a headband to the office every day and yet be judged by how you get the job done. But of course, there are politics to traditional office dress that pertain to everyone. And even though styles have loosened up over the years, there are still some things you don't do. Unfortunately, no one's told the women who show up for work wearing off-the-shoulder tops.

"In a conservative environment, you're sending out the wrong signal," says fashion consultant Sara D'Allessandro of Yorba Linda. "Save those off-the-shoulder blouses and dresses for evening wear."

The bare shoulder look can be OK if you're in a hip, creative business, but don't take it too far. You don't want to look like you went from a wild night of clubbing straight to the office.

Lint loathing: How can you tell if your boss has gone to lunch? If he's wearing dark wool slacks or she's got on a dark wool skirt or dress, check the lap. A white linen napkin will probably leave a telltale imprint of lint.

"It's just a fact of life that this is what napkins do," says Terry Barbour of Nordstrom in Costa Mesa. "Not many people bring something to lay under their napkins."

The key? Carry a lint brush or roller in the glove compartment to clean up after lunch and, before you leave the restaurant, give a quick, subtle brush with your hand to remove any large, white pieces.

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