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October 15, 1998|JEANNINE STEIN

Cutout-Waist Dress Not a Holey Disaster

Dear Fashion Police: I have a long, stretchy Bisou-Bisou dress from last season. It has a side cutout at the waist. Is this look totally dead this season? It looks great on and is just a year old.

Also, what is appropriate to wear with a cocktail dress in terms of a wrap? Shawls? Velvet jackets? And if it's raining and you're out at night wearing formal dress, how do you handle delicate shoes and bags? Wear rain gear or ruin your shoes?



Dear Hope: That cutout look is not the hottest thing going this season. However, we noticed that Marilyn Manson wore a fetching transgender kind of a cutout . . . uh, thing, at this year's MTV Video Music Awards.

It's also not our favorite sexy look, since it can sometimes segue into cheesy-trashy. We prefer the flesh-revealing styles designers are doing now: panels of lace, sheer chiffon or mesh fabric over bare skin, or dresses that have verrrrrry low-cut backs.

But we'd hate to see you toss a dress after just a few months--often the price we pay for being trendy--so we won't bust you in public. This time. But we trust that your dress isn't tasteless (i.e., certain body parts hanging out) and that you won't wear it to temple or church.

As for a cocktail dress wrap, options abound. You can spice up a basic black number with a burnout velvet shawl. Those are everywhere this season, in black, muted solids, and ombre shadings, with fringe and without. If your dress has a vintage look, try a cropped jacket with a '40s look. If you want something more casual, try a cardigan in cotton, wool, cashmere or silk--but a closefitting one, nothing big and bulky. And for all-out glam, try a wide wrap in satin, velvet, or a combination of the two.

As for the rain gear, only the most meticulous will brave the elements in a full trench coat, hat, Wellies and umbrella. If that doesn't sound stylish enough, start with a raincoat that's made for evening--black, probably; one that buttons up to the neck, in a somewhat shiny fabric, is cut full and has a minimum of embellishments. If you're going to encounter torrents of rain, leave the really good shoes and handbag at home unless you can run at super-human speed and avoid getting wet. You don't want to risk getting anything permanently water-stained. Otherwise, pray for valet parking.

Dear Fashion Police: I am about 5 feet tall, and I love clothes. The problem is I usually get discouraged and too intimidated to wear what I want because of my height. For example, I love knee-length skirts, long boots and capri pants. But I'm afraid that I'll look ridiculous in them because of my short legs. Am I just insecure, or are my fears valid?



Dear Ex: Sweetheart, have you been living under a rock? Have you not heard of petites? These are clothes proportioned just for you, and they're available at department stores, as well as shops like Talbots and Ann Taylor.

There's no reason you can't wear knee-length skirts and capris, as long as they're made to fit your body. If you're truly worried about your legs, when you wear a short skirt, wear hose and shoes (or boots) in the same color to create one long line. Anything that breaks up the line will draw attention to your legs.

Peruse magazines such as InStyle and W to see how petite celebs put themselves together. Jada Pinkett Smith, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Holly Hunter are a few people you should check out.

From the Fashion Police Blotter: Just a reminder, we're still searching for tales of your Clothing That Will Not Die, items that just keep going and going. Here are the particulars:

* The item of clothing must be at least 20 years old.

* It has to be worn and cleaned on a regular basis--at least once a month.

* It has to be in good, wearable shape. No holes, tears, worn spots, pulled threads or discolorations.

* It has to have been originally purchased by you or given to you at the time it was made. In other words, it's not eligible if it's from a vintage clothing store or an attic trunk.

* You must state to what you attribute the item's longevity.

* We welcome any cute or funny anecdotes, but please don't embellish your stories. Honesty is the best policy.

We will reveal all next week.

* When reporting or preventing a fashion crime, write to Fashion Police, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or fax to (213) 237-0732. Submissions cannot be returned. No telephone inquiries, please.

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