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FASHION POLICE

Wearing Velvet's Cool if the Weather Is Too

November 02, 2001|Jeannine Stein

Dear Fashion Police: When is it appropriate to begin wearing velvet or velveteen? Is now too early?

--SEASONED

Dear Seasoned: It's not too early for velvet, velveteen or velour, providing that it's not 98 degrees with 98% humidity when you wear it. In other words, the laws of common sense prevail. While much of the country is preparing for Jack Frost to start nipping at their noses, some spots are still basking in summer's afterglow. In warmer areas, just uttering the word "velvet" can set sweat glands into overdrive. In those circumstances we suggest opting for something cooler, such as lightweight silk.

Fall and winter are traditional seasons for velvet, and it can be worn during the day or evening. For day, a tailored velvet shirt or loose top can be worn with jeans, or a long, casual velvet skirt can be worn with boots and a leather jacket. For evening, velvet shows up in pantsuits, jackets and gowns. Pair evening velvet separates, such as pants, with similarly luxe fabrics, such as silk charmeuse or cashmere.

Accessories can add a touch of velvet to your wardrobe. Look for velvet (or burnout velvet) scarves, velvet handbags and velvet shoes. Lace looks great with velvet too, and it's everywhere this season. Try a blouse with a lace jabot under a velvet jacket.

Dear Fashion Police: My husband is a military officer. We attend many functions that require him to wear his formal military uniform. Is it inappropriate for me to wear an evening-type pantsuit instead of a formal dress or a cocktail dress on these occasions? When we attend nonmilitary functions and he wears a tux I have felt comfortable in a dressy cocktail pantsuit. I do not want to commit a faux pas.

--WIFE OF THE GUY IN UNIFORM

Dear Wife: We got some great advice on this subject from Kathy Moakler, office manager for the National Military Family Assn. The nonprofit group based in Alexandria, Va., educates families about rights and benefits and works with Congress and the Pentagon on quality-of-life issues for military families. (You can find it on the Web at http://www.nmfa.org.) Moakler, a military wife of some 28 years, said that formal military functions "aren't as rigid as they used to be" when it comes to dress. "Unless you're meeting the queen of England" or attending a formal diplomatic dinner, she said, a dressy pantsuit is OK. "When in doubt, ask the hostess" were her parting words, along with "Use good judgment," which we appreciate, although unfortunately not everyone was blessed with the "good judgment" gene.

We'll add that a dressy pantsuit should be made from fabric such as silk chiffon, raw silk, silk charmeuse, velvet, or high-quality man-made fibers. Evening pantsuits often have details such as embroidery, beading or sequins (in limited quantities, please), or a little sparkle can be added with jewelry and accessories.

If you're invited to a formal event and can't contact the hostess or still feel unsure about whether to opt for a pantsuit or dress, go with a dress. Unless the event is white tie (the most formal of all), a cocktail or dinner dress will not be out of place.

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FROM THE FASHION POLICE BLOTTER: Do you have a thing for vintage clothes but don't have the patience to paw through flea market racks, or lack access to great thrift or vintage clothing stores? If you have access to the Internet, check out Vintage Trends.com, a site offering vintage finds for men, women and children. All kinds of clothes, from overalls to lingerie to suits, shirt and sweaters, are available at reasonable prices (many under $50). The condition of each item is listed, as are detailed measurements, because sizes in the 1940s, '50s and '60s vary from today's. The site also carries new clothes, military clothes, household items, "recycled" clothes (we found a Cynthia Rowley cotton dress circa 1990 for $25). It's at http://www.vintagetrends.com, or call (310) 760-9500. As with any online e-tailer, make sure you're familiar with the company's return policy before ordering. For instance, Vintage Trends' policy states that "flaws or stains already described on the site in the item description are not permissible grounds for returning the item."

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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 jeannine.stein@latimes.com.

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