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Jeannine Stein FASHION POLICE

A Modest Proposal: Alert the Unbuttoned

July 26, 2002|Jeannine Stein

Dear Fashion Police: I just wanted to share a cautionary tale with other women out there. Last week, while running from one meeting to another, I stopped in to a coffeehouse. After I placed my order I made conversation with other men and women waiting for their drinks. Later, one of the servers--a young man--waved me over. Smiling, he pointed toward my blouse. I looked down to see four buttons open, and my bra revealed.

I thanked him profusely and then turned to the woman to whom I'd given my order: "Why didn't you tell me?" I asked. She replied matter-of-factly, "I thought you wanted it that way." I shared this story with a friend over lunch who had a similar experience. While she was walking around a mall, unbeknownst to her, her black bra was on view to the world. Not a soul told her.

Mind you, I'm not Britney Spears or J-Lo, just a drone going through my day. But it seems that in this land of decollete and midriff-baring tiny tops, we can't rely on our old checks and balances if something goes awry. And just out of curiosity, is there a polite way to let someone know that she may be showing more than she thinks?

--STILL BLUSHING

Dear Still: While we can't help but raise an eyebrow or two over your adventures in near-nakedness, we have to admit we're not that shocked. While driving the other day we saw three young women walking down the street with pants so low and shirts so cropped that not only were great segments of their tummies revealed, but most of their backsides as well. How any of these women left the house thinking "I look awesome!" is a complete mystery to us.

That's why we're not hyperventilating over your incident. It's unfortunate that only one caring soul took it upon himself to clue you. But it's excruciatingly obvious that our culture is so used to seeing semi-clothed people that a woman with her blouse open doesn't engender much outcry. And that's too bad.

We're sure that among those getting an eyeful were some who thought about telling you your blouse was unbuttoned, but decided to keep mum in case this was a look you had carefully planned out. These may be the same people who, when seeing young men in oversized pants slung low enough to show a great chunk of colorful boxers, want to scream, "Hey! Your pants are falling down!" But they don't, fearing being mistaken for the poster child for un-hip dweebs.

Our advice to those who think someone may unwittingly be revealing more than they'd like is to take them aside and say, "Perhaps you don't know, but your blouse is open." If that is met with withering glances, just smile and say, "Have a nice day." Either way, you've done a good deed.

Dear Fashion Police: What should an older lady wear to a San Francisco summer picnic in the park? The afternoon event is part of a wedding weekend. The wedding is in a chapel but this would be before or after the event. I imagine it will be a small group, 50 to 75 people.

--UNCLEAR ON

THE CONCEPT

Dear Unclear: It's becoming more and more common for couples to plan a weekend or week's worth of events around their wedding. The reason behind this is that the bride and groom often invite friends and family members from out of town, or out of the country, and to make the schlep more worthwhile and fun they add events such as brunches, parties and showers.

Considerate brides and grooms often print up an itinerary with appropriate attire for each event so no one has to guess what to wear. We assume that was left out in your case, so we'll try to fill it in.

Since San Francisco weather this time of year can be sweltering or chilly--or both--we recommend wearing clothes you can layer. A jacket or sweater over a blouse or dress is ideal, allowing you to add or remove pieces as necessary.

We suggest you keep your style fairly casual, since this is a picnic. A cotton or linen skirt, dress, or pair of pants is a good place to start. Choose items that allow you to move since you'll probably want to mingle. Look for loose-fitting slacks or a roomy skirt that falls mid-calf. Cottons with a bit of Lycra are very comfortable. We hope the hosts have provided picnic tables, but you should be prepared for the possibility of funky chairs or benches or sitting on blankets on the ground. Wear flats so that your heels don't sink into the ground, and bring a hat in case there's a dearth of shade.

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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