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Reduce Your Fear, Reuse and Recycle That Dress

March 30, 2001

Dear Fashion Police: Is it a faux pas to wear your mother-of-the-bride dress more than once? We are going to a black-tie dinner and auction, and I need a dressy dress. Mine is a long sheath dress with a jacket and few embellishments. I don't think it's too dressy, but about 10 of my friends will be there who also attended the wedding at which I originally wore the dress, which was about a year ago.

--NERVOUS

Dear Nervous: A faux pas? Au contraire, mon amie! We are thrilled that someone decided to recycle her former wedding attire. It happens so rarely--most bridesmaid or mother-of-the-bride dresses just end up sitting in the closet for months or even years before they're tossed or donated to charity. The reason for that, we're sure, is that most look so bridal-y or wedding-ish that they'll be spotted as a recycle a mile away.

But not all dresses and gowns fit that description, so if yours is suitable for a black-tie affair, by all means, wear it. Formal wear can also be given a second life by changing or adding a jacket, adding or removing embellishments, or hemming (unless you're an uber seamstress, we recommend taking your dress to a pro for any serious alterations). Princess Diana used to alter her clothes often, stretching her already extensive wardrobe even further.

Now, about those friends of yours. Frankly, we'd be amazed if any of them actually remember the dress from a year ago or would have the gall to say anything even vaguely negative. But if any catty comments should be uttered, just smile graciously and thank them for noticing your thriftiness, which we all know is next to godliness.

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Dear Fashion Police: My family and I will be attending graduation ceremonies at West Point this June. We need to know how to dress for this occasion. The ceremony takes place at 9 a.m., and afterward we will be on campus doing some sightseeing. Comfort will be an issue since this will be an all-day outing. How dressy or casual should we go? Please include suggestions for my husband, me, and our 7-year-old son.

--WANTS TO BE AT EASE

Dear Wants: Not ever having been to commencement ceremonies at West Point, we checked with Mike D'Aquino, the friendly spokesman in the academy's public service office. He informed us that graduation is a somewhat dressy affair, with women usually in dresses, suits or pantsuits, and men in suits or sport coats and ties. "It's a special day for the parents and the graduates, so they kind of dress up a little bit," he said. Weather that time of year, he added, is usually in the mid- to upper 70s.

To maximize your comfort level, we suggest choosing lightweight, natural fibers in light colors. Wear low-heeled shoes (not new ones you've never worn before), and take a hat if it's sunny. For your son, we recommend a nice dress shirt and slacks.

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FROM THE FASHION POLICE BLOTTER: We found a few more resources for "Desperate Mom," who was looking for clothes for her husky-sized son:

* Rudnick's stores in Encino ([818] 788-9170) and Westlake ([805] 495-0282) carry husky sizes for boys and teens. They specialize in dressy clothes but also carry sportswear.

* For Kids Only carries dressy clothes in husky sizes (and regular sizes) at discount prices; they're in Los Angeles ([323] 650-4885) and Tarzana ([818] 708-9543).

* Jockey Club Ltd. in Costa Mesa ([714] 662-0449) specializes in business clothes for short men (5 feet 8 and under) but may be able to accommodate some husky-size boys. It also has a Web site, www.shortmenssizes.com.

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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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