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FASHION POLICE

How Do You Keep It Casual but Up to Code?

September 08, 2000|JEANNINE STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Fashion Police: I live in an active adult community and am on a committee to establish dress guidelines for the lounge and dining room. The term "smart casual" keeps popping up, but no one seems to know exactly what that means. Any assistance you could render in helping formulate a reasonable dress code would be greatly appreciated.

--LAYING DOWN THE LAW

Dear Law: Before we talk about guidelines, let's remember one thing: You can't please all the people all the time. Whatever dress code you decide on, keep in mind that there are going to be a few people who will disagree with your rules and even hate the fact that there is a dress code. Such is life.

In determining guidelines, the most difficult task is giving people freedom to wear what they like while placing restrictions on their clothing at the same time. It can be done, but you must be careful how you balance the two. Remember that reasonable guidelines are beneficial in the long run, because they take much of the guesswork out of putting together an outfit.

Begin by studying how most people in your area dress, both during the day and evening. If yours is like some adult communities we've seen, casual is the preferred mode of dress. Note that we said casual, not sloppy. Cotton or cotton-blend slacks, Bermuda shorts, polo shirts, linen blouses, knee-length to ankle-length skirts, sport coats and bomber jackets are some of the outfits we've spotted. They're clean, pressed, and coordinated beautifully with accessories such as hats, sun umbrellas, scarves, tasteful jewelry, and even the occasional necktie.

That's probably where the "smart casual" term came from--dressing casually, but maintaining a sense of style and appropriateness. Reinforce those ideas in the code by giving suggestions. For example, "In the dining room, men should wear slacks and a shirt with a collar--no shorts or T-shirts. Jackets are optional."

You might also want to pinpoint some specifics. This is where the committee must decide what particular items of clothing are or are not appropriate. For instance, jeans and shorts might be too casual for the dining room, but OK in the lounge. Perhaps you think muumuus or housecoats should be banished altogether. Maybe bathing suit cover-ups are a nono everywhere but by the pool.

Don't go overboard and issue too many rules and regs, or committee members will be seen as cruel fashion despots out to make everyone's life miserable. Focus on a few things that are generally regarded as inappropriate, and chances are you won't have too much dissension on your hands.

*

Dear Fashion Police: I have a beautiful designer sweater from New Zealand that my niece has stored in mothballs, and now I can't get the smell out. I have had it cleaned and aired it out for almost a month. I called several cleaners who said they can do nothing. Someone suggested I bury it in a tub of baking soda. I even called the company that makes Febreze (a product that removes odors from clothing and fabric), and they said not to use it, since it is water-based and might shrink the sweater.

--SWEATER GIRL

Dear Sweater: Removing mothball odors is a toughie, no doubt about it. That unmistakable chemical smell seems to linger no matter what.

One trick we've heard of is placing your sweater in a drawer or box with some charcoal. This should absorb at least some of the odor. You mentioned that you aired it out for almost a month, but didn't say where. You might have better luck hanging it outdoors where air can circulate through it.

Write to Fashion Police, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, fax to (213) 237-4888, or send e-mail to socalliving@latimes.com.

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