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Dressing 101 for a Scholar Going Places : Dressing 101 for a Scholar Going Places


Dear Fashion Police: My 16-year-old daughter was nominated as a National Scholar and will be spending 11 days in Washington, D.C., this summer at a leadership conference. We need help with her wardrobe. Currently, it consists of shorts, miniskirts, jeans, tank tops, T-shirts, light sweaters and sweatshirts. The shoes she has are flip-flops, platform sandals and tennis shoes. For the trip, my daughter will be in a professional setting and is required to wear a blouse and skirt or dress every day and shoes that are comfortable enough to walk distances in. Jeans are OK for the evening.

We need help putting together a fashionable teen wardrobe for the city on a limited budget. My daughter is 5 foot 3 and full-figured. Please advise us with your fantastic fashion wisdom.



Dear Hope: Congratulations on your daughter's academic accomplishments--this sounds like a wonderful opportunity. But if she wears the wardrobe she has now, she'll sink faster than the Titanic.

The first thing you should know is that D.C. is a very conservative city. Very. Although we're not suggesting a 16-year-old should look like a bank president, she needs to understand that people will take her more seriously if she looks neat and together.

The second thing is that it can get very hot and sticky in the summer, so we suggest natural fibers such as cotton and linen, though it wrinkles, or blends.

Her basic wardrobe should be one she can mix and match, so stay with two neutral color palettes: say, navy and beige. Use accessories to add color and style.

Since the emphasis is on skirts and dresses for day, we recommend taking two skirts and one dress. Look for straight-cut skirts that fall from the middle of the knee to mid-calf, and get one in a dark neutral and one in a light. For the dress, choose a shirtwaist, or a classic short-sleeve T-shape or sleeveless sheath.

If you can find a jacket that goes with both skirts and the dress, you'll be the queen of all shoppers. If not, try for one that matches at least two of the three. Also, bring a couple of cardigan sweaters--again, staying in the same color ranges so you can pair these with the skirts and the dress. If you can find a twin set that's reasonable, go for it. It will give you even more options.

As for tops, pack nice T-shirts or short-sleeve blouses that can be layered under the jacket and cardigans. Take along a long-sleeve tailored blouse or two as well. Here you can add some punch with brighter colors or patterns, but don't go overboard. If you see the shirt before you see your daughter, forget it.

You mention your daughter is full-figured but didn't say what her proportions are. We're going to leave it up to you to choose the best style for her--for instance, if she's hippy, select long jackets and sweaters. If she's bigger up top, try full-cut jackets and loose, boxy sweaters that don't cling.

For shoes, stick with two pairs of flats or low heels that will go with every outfit--loafers or skimmers will work fine.

Keep accessories to a minimum, but have some fun--she is a teenager, after all. Neck kerchiefs, floral barrettes and small pieces of jewelry are all OK.

On her off time, jeans are certainly acceptable, but keep in mind that she's still going to be seen as a member of this National Scholar program. So no midriff tops, halters, miniskirts, messy or revealing tank tops and T-shirts, or sweats.

Lastly, she should get a hairstyle that's easy to take care of and looks professional.


From the Fashion Police Blotter: A couple of weeks ago we had a letter from "Desperately Seeking Different," a Los Angeles reader who's going to Chicago soon and plans to do some shopping for dresses. She was interested in finding styles she doesn't usually see in L.A.

We recommended one store, Jane Hamill on West Armitage Avenue, and asked readers for other suggestions. Everyone who wrote, faxed or e-mailed assured us that the Windy City has wonderful, unique fashions that will satisfy the most demanding shopaholics.

Chicagoans are very loyal to Marshall Field's, the Windy City-based department store. While there are several branches, you might start at the city's Magnificent Mile, a section of Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Lake Shore Drive. Described as a "serious shopper's mecca," it also includes Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and many other stores.

One of the cross streets in that area, Oak Street, was mentioned by several people as a great place to find local designer boutiques and other great stores.

Back on Armitage Avenue, check out Art Effect (651 W. Armitage Ave., [312] 664-0997), which offers trendy and avant-garde fashions, plus accessories and gift items.

There's also Robin Richman (2108 N. Damen Ave., [773] 278-6150), which features hand-knit sweaters, plus machine-made knits, and pieces to go along with them. It also carries menswear, shoes, some antiques and even garden furniture.

At Mira Couture (1 E. Delaware Place, [312] 255-1699), you can definitely get something one-of-a-kind, since it makes custom clothes (suits to wedding dresses), with everything from seamstresses to fabric on the premises. It also sells its own ready-to-wear designs, including sportswear and special-occasion dresses. It also has a Web site:

A million thanks to all the readers who contributed suggestions. You have our everlasting gratitude.

Write to Fashion Police, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, fax to (213) 237-4888 or send e-mail to

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