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JEANNINE STEIN / Fashion Police

Don't Break the Code: How to Dress in San Francisco

September 17, 1998|JEANNINE STEIN

Dear Fashion Police: My husband and I love to take long weekend getaways to a fancy hotel in San Francisco. Last fall I went to Milan and wore a pair of brown suede jeans, short boots and a blue-brown herringbone hacking jacket. But in San Francisco, wearing the same outfit, I felt like a misplaced country girl with all these women milling about in their power suits with miniskirts and high heels. I was clueless about what to wear in the evening. I'm in my 40s, 5 feet 7, fit and slim, but my legs are not my best feature. I look great in pants, however. What do you suggest to take to San Francisco next time? The dress code is apparently alive and well there!

--WANTS TO FIT IN

Dear Fit: We heartily agree that San Francisco is a bit more particular when it comes to dress than most California cities--a wonderful attribute.

As for those power-suited women, you probably saw them in the financial district, where tailored jackets and pumps still reign supreme.

San Franciscans also dress up at better restaurants such as Masa and Bix. We're not talking button-down here, but dressy, elegant clothes. At these places a pantsuit is perfectly acceptable. We'd suggest one that isn't too mannish, perhaps a collarless jacket accessorized with a scarf or a bold pin. You won't go wrong with neutral shades of taupe, black, charcoal, chocolate or navy. And if a mini isn't your style, try a long column dress in silk, velvet or a wool or wool-blend knit. Don't worry about high heels--if you favor flats, just make sure they're in keeping with the style of the outfit. Low-heel pumps in suede, faille or velvet would be great. Your handbag should be a small clutch or shoulder-strap style.

Of course, at more casual spots, such as some of the neighborhood places in North Beach, your suede jeans-hacking jacket-boots ensemble would fit right in. Just don't be alarmed if someone asks you where you parked your horse.

Dear Fashion Police: Can you please explain how bra-sizing works? I bought two bras of the same style, one 38C and one 38B. The girth of the 38C bra is 29 inches, and the girth of the 38B bra is 28 inches. My actual girth is 29 inches. The girth of the 38C fits me, while the cups on the 38B fit. Why do manufacturers think that if the cup size is less, then they should make the girth less? Also, what is the correlation between the bra size number, i.e. 38, and the actual measurement of the bra's girth?

--WONDERING IF I'M BUSTED

Dear Wonder: Ah, the mysteries of clothing sizes. Isn't it fun? We're happy to uncover the Big Secret of how bra-sizing works, and we guarantee it will make you appreciate math class more.

First, you'll need a tape measure. It also helps if you can have someone measure you--the results usually come out better. With only your bra on (and don't wear a big padded one), measure the area just below your bust, sort of at the top of your rib cage. Don't squeeze the tape measure or hold it too loosely. Add five inches to that. If you get an odd number, such as 37, round up one. This is the "girth" measurement, or the 38 part of 38B.

Next, measure the fullest part of your bust line--again, don't squeeze the tape. Compare your bust line measurement to your girth measurement. If the difference is zero inches, you're a AA cup. One inch is an A cup, two inches a B cup, three inches a C cup, four inches a D cup, five inches a DD cup, six inches a DDD.

That's the basic guideline. But as in regular clothes, there is much variation among different lingerie labels, so try on a few different styles to get your exact fit.

Hats About It: Finding women's hats that fit seems to be a never-ending source of frustration for some of you, judging by the mail we get. In the past we've offered solutions to the dubious one-size-fits-all sizing, including finding hats in the children's department, having a hat custom-made, and inserting an adhesive band around the inside to make a secure fit.

But wait--there's more! We heard from Laura Lynch of Laura's Lids, a milliner from the Santa Barbara area who offered these suggestions: If you're buying a straw hat, give the hat a tug on the bias (on the angle). If it gives, or, as Lynch says, "moves like an accordion," the hat will probably stretch to fit a larger head. Hats with dense, tight weaves won't have that give.

Lynch suggested this when trying on hats: "Women tend to gently lay a hat on top of their head. If a hat has a deep crown (six inches or so), it is meant to be worn low, across the forehead, not resting on top as a cocktail style would."

She also noted that smaller boutiques selling milliner-made hats can often take special orders for larger or smaller sizes, so ask the store owner or manager.

Some of Lynch's hats have a sewn-in elastic band inside the crown that accommodates different sizes. Her hats can be found in Santa Barbara at Socorro (805) 966-5779, or you can call Lynch at (805) 382-0057.

* 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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