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Fashion Advice with Carson Kressley

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and

Janet Bennett and Carson Kressley
washingtonpost.com Fashion Editor and Fashion Expert, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
Monday, September 27, 2004; 2:30 PM

Carson Kressley, the wickedly funny fashionista from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," has made it cool for the average guy to care about clothes. In his new book, "Off the Cuff: The Essential Guide for Men and Women Who Love Them," Kressley gives guys a step-by-step guide to knowing what to wear when, what to toss and how to shop. He dispenses his wardrobe wisdom on such things as when to wear cashmere (always) and pleated khakis (never) and whether to follow trends (you don't want to look like everyone else, do you?). Kressley also provides tips women can use to help their guys.

Kressley discusses fashion and his new book with host Janet Bennett, washingtonpost.com fashion and beauty editor, on Monday, Sept. 27, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Janet Bennett: Hi, everyone,
Thanks for tuning in. Ready to talk to Carson Kressley about his new book and fashion dos and don'ts? Let the questions begin!


Centreville, Va.: I get a little tired of the constant bashing of pleated pants. Flat front pants do not fit me right (I've tried a dozen different brands, all the way up to $150 in price.) Why and when did pleated khakis have to become this horrible mistake? Is this just a case of fashion having to change for the sake of change?

Carson Kressley: In my heart of hearts, I really do believe that flat front pants do in fact look better on everyone. They are simply more modern and cleaner looking. Contrary to popular belief I do think they are slimming on heavier men. Try Bill's Khakis. They offer several fits that flatter most any figure. They are at billskhakis.com.


Sterling, Va.: What shoe/boot works best with a suede skirt?

Carson Kressley: This is a tricky predicament, especially for men with large calves. But for women, it is much easier. Since suede is traditionally a fall and winter skin, I like to see suede skirts with a nice leather boot. If you can wear a heel that is the best bet to "sex it up". Regular heels in LEATHER look great too. Try not to match suede to suede; too much is not a good thing.


Madison, Wis.: What are the best styles of pants for a tall man with a beer gut? 6'3" and 260. Cuffs or no? He's getting back into the business world, and I want to help him look good as he relaunches his career.

Carson Kressley: Have him wear a flat front pant (it is slimming) and I would recommend no cuff for a cleaner, modern look. If his height is imposing, however, a cuff may give his leg a better sense of proportion. A little cardio can help with the beer gut!


Springfield, Va.: Have you a theory, or perhaps an explanation, as to why I am seeing gaucho pants again?

Carson Kressley: Obviously it is some secret iniative commenced by the Argentinian government to stimulate their economy. Gauchos went away the first time for a reason.


the 'burbs: Carson-

What would be the number one thing you'd advise men who just don't get the fashion "thing"? My husband is an astronomer, and you can tell by the way he dresses!

Carson Kressley: For novices, and astronomers, I like to employe the time tested adage of "KISS". Keep it simple, sister. Baby steps. Start with good looking classics from a traditional designer. Think blue blazers, flat front khakis, and oxford shirts from Brooks Brothers.


Reston, VA: Are there any plans in the works for Carson to design his own line of clothing?

Carson Kressley: There has been some talk, but nothing as of yet. I spend so much time in straight guy's drawers that I cannot imagine finding the time to design a line! But fear not, I am working on it!


Washington, D.C.: Hello!

Love your show. Am going to buy one or two blazers, have my eye on JCREW green wool blazer and houndstooth blazer. Any opinions?

What is the must have for guys this fall?


Carson Kressley: I think the must have for guys this season is a boyfriend. Oh wait, that's what I want this fall. But back to you, gentle internet subscriber, I love J CREW too and think it is an excellent choice - traditional but with a youthful flair and subtle fashion twists. Go with the houndstooth. You will get more mileage out of it compared to the green.


Arlington, Va. Hi Carson- Remember me?

I am getting married in November and need something hot for the rehearsal dinner at our yacht club. I am thinking nautical colors, any other ideas for me?


Carson Kressley: Even though it is fall, you cannot go wrong with a chic knit dress in Navy. Accessorize with gold and you are yacht to be overlooked.


Alexandria, VA: Question from a girlfriend -- any thoughts on how to go shopping with a boyfriend and steer him away from unflattering choices without hurting his feelings? Secondary: any thoughts on attractive shapes for a mid-height (5'11") guy with muscular shoulders and a thick neck?

Carson Kressley: Baby steps. It is like training a pet! You dont want to overwhelm him with too much information. Take him to one or two stores and show him things that you think will look good on him. Have him try on just a few items, so as not to induce the fight or flight syndrome, and when he looks good praise him. It works for my Yorkie.


Los Angeles, Ca. : Hi - What colors do you think look best with a slightly darker complexion, brown eyes and black hair?

Carson Kressley: It really depends on skin TONE. Warm brown tones (African American, Indian) can hold up nicely against bright yellows, corals and red. Olive or yellow based skin tones have to wear softer colors, think moss, pumpkin and nantucket red. A good rule of thumb is to avoid colors that MATCH skin tone. Have you even seen anyone look good in flesh tones? Me neiher, mon frer!


Washington, D.C.: Carson!
I watch your show regularly and love it.
My daughter's boyfriend needs major fashion help. I've never seen him in anything else but ragged shorts jeans and plaid lumberjack shirts. He either does not care or does not know how --I dare say-- offensive his clothes are to me. Is it appropriate for me, his girlfriend's Mom, to approach him on the subject? If so, HOW do I go about it?
Thank you for your reply

Carson Kressley: Danger will-mother-in-law! Danger. I think it is best to let your daughter do the talking here. And I dont think she should mention it came from you. I would have her simply suggest that it would nice and respectful to dress a little more nicely around her and you. The key is to make them think it THEIR idea!


Tall Guy, Washington, D.C.: I'm over 6 feet tall, too tall for most standard sizes (sleeves or inseams are too short). Seems that most stores that cater to tall men either think we only wear khakis and plaid or are not only tall, but really "big." Custom-made clothes are too expensive for my budget. What are the options for a tall man who wants to wear something a little more sylish than Dockers? Thanks.

Carson Kressley: Aside from very expensive surgery, there are few options in the big and tall world. Just think of it as kharma for being able to conveniently reach all those things on the upper shelves at grocery stores. You win some, you lose some. BUT, tall one, there is one very good option out there: Rochester Big & Tall. They carry tall sizes from famous designers like Ralph Lauren and Versace. A few strategic purchases can really spice up others in your wardrobe.


Wilkes-Barre, PA=a.: What are the guidelines for wearing a bow tie?

Carson Kressley: They are simple. Wear only for formal occaisions. Otherwise you could be mistaken for Orville Redenbacher. And he's dead.


Washington, D.C.: Carson, please help my Dad. He wears polo shirts all the time, and still wears the collars turned up. Is this OK again? Or is Dad still stuck in the '80s?

Carson Kressley: Ah the dreaded collar erection. I loved it in the eighties, but now it ust looks silly. It really only works on pro golfers and tennis players, where, I might add, it serves (pun intended) a real purpose in protecting the back of the neck from the sun. If your dad is not Andre Aggasi, tell him to turn his collar down.


Washington, D.C.: Please tell me why round toe shoes are back?? Seriously, how do you feel about round toe shoes for women, and can we ignore the round toe and continue to wear pointy toe shoes and boots without looking like an outdated fashion victim? Carson Kressley: If you like points keep wearing them. To me they look dressier, more sophisticated and tailored. I am with you sister!


Washington, DC: Carson,

I love your show and am constantly amazed with what you can accomplish in such a short amount of time with the guys you make-over. (though the ice-skater didn't need much help!;) My question is: I've noticed some fashion magazines and displays have guys wearing pinstripe suites, shirts with stripes, and ties with stripes - all at once. I was always taught that is a no-no - only TWO patterns at once. Did I miss something? I'm only 25, so I hope not!;

Carson Kressley: This is an area in my book, Off The Cuff, that I call: Not for Amateurs. Someone as adept as you, who is already reading the fashion mags, and who has a whole life of tszujing ahead of him can try the advanced maneuever of combining three patterns in a natty Saville Row manner. Just remember to unify with color so as not to induce seizures.


Zurich, Switzerland:

I love your sense of style!; What are the must-have 5 staple
items for a woman's winter wardrobe?

Carson Kressley: Guten Tag meine Schweitzer Freund! Here's my list:
1.touches of fur (real or fake)
2.Suede and leather (especially boots in chocolate brown suede)
3.brooches galore (from rhinestones to cameos)
4.patterned hose (think 1940s galmour)
5.A smile - its the cherry on top of the fashion sundae!


Clayton, NM: Give us some of your favorite on-line fashion sites and shopping sites.

Carson Kressley: Bluefly.com
ebay for vinatage like Lily Pulitzer and Rolex.

Carson Kressley: Silly me! Check out CarsonKressley.com as well for a list of fun links.


Rosslyn, Va.: What kind of men's jeans are in style right now? It is so confusing with different colors, cuts, zip vs button fly, etc. What is one supposed to do?!?

Carson Kressley: When in doubt, chose a classic. I have always liked the Levis 501 Button Fly. Those jeans are like the UPS man...they give you a nice package.


Stafford, Va.: Carson - I am pleased to read your support of flat panel pants. The sales guys in the Men's Dept. at the Tyson's Nordstrom store refer to flat panel pants as "old man pants". Boo hoo.

Carson Kressley: Get me his name. I will send my peeps to work him over.


Takoma Park, Maryland: When will square toed shoes for men go out of style?

Carson Kressley: Soon, I hope. A pointed shoe is dressier, more tailored and just better looking in my opinion.


washington, DC: tell us about your new book!;

Carson Kressley: It is called Off the Cuff: The Essntial Style Guide for Men and the Women Who Love Them. Pubished by Dutton. Go to CarsonKressley.com or Amazon.com for more information. I like to think of it as an original manifesto on looking good and feeling great about it.


Washington, D.C.: I HATE pantyhose! Is it legal to go without them during the winter?

Janet Bennett: Hi, there,
Pantyhose can be a curse, and it's certainly not illegal to go without -- if you don't mind freezing!


Rochester, NY: Carson,
What's with pairing t-shirts with suit jackets? I don't get this fashion statement and yet I see you put it together on the show. Is it office casual or going out with friends casual?

Carson Kressley: The t shirt with suit look, in my opinion is too casual for most office settings. But, if you work in a highly creative environment, say an art gallery or record company it could suit you to a t!


Fairfax, Va.: When is baggy too baggy? At the gym playing basketball, most of the younger players (high school/college) wear shorts that extend past the knees. Do you approve?

Carson Kressley: What is the "Basketball" game you speak of? Just kidding. I think for the gym whatever is comfortable works. However, I do think it looks better to wear a classic mid-thigh length gym short. Less to get tangled up in!


Charlottesville, Va: Tuxedo. Straight or bat wing collar?

Carson Kressley: Straight. Like I like my, um, vodka.


Mexico City: I watch your programme every Sunday, and also bought your book recently. Most of the people that are shown there are thin, with a few exceptions. Where can I find practical advice on fashion for chubby people like me (because when I've followed your advice I look like, we say in Mexico, a badly tied tamale)

Carson Kressley: Aye Dios Mio, Papi! A badly tied tamale sounds like a botched briss! We dont want that, now do we? No matter what your size it is important to wear clothes that fit. Always be sure to buy the correct size and have items altered if necessary. You never want to look like ten pounds of sugar in a five pound bag!


Washington D.C.: Hey Carson, what is the deal with white socks? My fiance just got new brown leather walking shoes to wear with shorts. What kind of socks are you supposed to wear with them? Is it ever OK to wear white socks?

Carson Kressley: Love the white sox - yes the baseball team. Hate white socks. They are only appropriate for the gym. When worn with any other shoe, or (GASP) sandal, one invetibally looks like a German tourist seeking directions to the Washington Monument.


The OC, Ca.: Love the show.

K-swiss classics or Puma sneakers? Please advise

Carson Kressley: Love em both. Although K-swiss is a little preppier; and Puma has a better color run. Don't forget Tretorns are back!


When do you sleep?: So how many chats/appearances are you doing today?

Carson Kressley: I sleep in meetings at the office. It really tends to free up time! I am a busy, busy lady. But I do manage to get 6-8 hours of sleep each night. And I need all the beauty sleep I can get!


Arlington, Va.: Hi Carson,

Tell me, what's the difference between a $50 tie and a $300. tie.

Carson Kressley: About $250.

Carson Kressley: And you people thought I couldn't do math! Ties like any garment are about quality. I think you can certainly get a good quality tie for $50 at any major dept store. The really expensive designer ones are just not worth it, unless it is a very, very special occaision.


Rockville, MD: Hi Carson!; My husband thinks I don't dress sexy enough,
and I know he's right. I am tall/skinny/flat and get
frustrated in places like Victoria's Secret. I usually shop in
Ann Taylor for nice business attire because their stuff is
tailored to my shape, but, I can't afford to buy my entire
wardrobe there. I tend to live in flat front khakis and
collared knit shirts. Any suggestions on how to update my
look without spending a fortune?

Carson Kressley: Ann Taylor is wonderful for career basics, but it is not what I think of when I think of sexy. Add seasoning to your current wardrobe by adding a few sexy heels, tops and skirts. They are like salt and pepper on food. Just a dash will do the trick. Try a designer consignment shop or Loehmanns.


London, UK: Carson: When can I wear Doc Martens in the U.S. again?

Carson Kressley: How does never work for you?


Arlington, Va.: Love the show, can't wait to read the book. I'm taking your advice and buying a tux. What kind of shoes go with it?

Carson Kressley: Keep it all simple. Look for old photos of Cary Grant and get exactly what he is wearing. A patent lace up tuxedo shoe is nice. Or if you really want to knock their socks off, wear an evening slipper from Stubbs & Wooten of Palm Beach. Oh, and take your socks off too, as they only look good with bare ankles.


Washington, D.C.: I love top brand name clothes, but usually can't afford them (Zegna and Versace fit me really well). Is there any place you reccomend to go and find those brand names for less. Off Saks is good, but any other places? Thanks!

Carson Kressley: You have come to the right place, my little bitty thrifty one. I too LOVE a good bargain. Here are some of my faves:
Century 21 in New York (worth the trip)
Marshalls, but better for home furnishings
Designer Re-Sale or Consignment shops (not to be confused with Thrift Stores)

Go, shop, be fabulous!


Arlington, Va.: What is the proper number of buttons to have on a man's suit coat? Two are traditional, but I have seen three and even four. What is the correct number? Thanks

Carson Kressley: Very good. Two is correct, and three is having a moment as well. For taller gents I recommend three. Creates a better scale on the body. Four buttons require a very expensive trombone as an accessorie. Ix Nay on the four button.


Washington, D.C.: Were you born this fabulous or was it an evolution?

Carson Kressley: I was born a poor black child in the parking lot of a Kmart in Decatur, Alabama. Then one day...
No I was not born this fab. It happened over time. After arduous years of retail training. But really, everyone evolves. My motto is "Don't Find Yourself, Create Yourself"!


Fairfax, Va.: I really like Anderson Cooper's sense of style! Plus, his coloring is similar to mine - my hair is prematurely grey at age 25. Do you think I can get away with copying his look - at least for the office? How can I update it to make it work for me?

A fan of both Carson and Anderson

Carson Kressley: Absolutely. That is what we call finding a fashion role model. I think Andy looks great too. And I won't even tell him you are copying his look. Just don't start using his credit cards. That is FRAUD.

PS Anderson comes from Fashion Royalty - his mom is the one and only Gloria Vanderbilt!


Washington, D.C.: How many suits does a man really need and what fabric and color?

Carson Kressley: It really depends on your lifestyle. If you wear a suit to work each day, you should have at least three for fall and winter and two for summer. You can freshen up with interesting dress shirt and tie combos to make them look "new" each day. If you work in a casual environment you need only one or two. Chose a medium grey or navy in medium weight wool.


Washington, D.C.: Just saw your Web site. You were in town yesterday???????????? And no more scheduled stops in the D.C. area? What's a girl to do?

Carson Kressley: I think my DC days are over. Might be in town for the Kerry inauguration. Did I remind you to vote. Oh, yeah, I just did. Keep checking on my website. I may be in Baltimore or Philly. I'm worth the drive.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Carson,
My boyfriend is a good dresser and seems to pick out his own clothing quite well. Last year he was asking for a pair of Bloundstones (sp?) but his birthday came and went and I never got them. Are these boots still in style or is there something else you hisn't until early December but never too early to start looking, right?

Carson Kressley: LOVE the Blundstones! They look great with jeans, cords, and sometimes daringly with a corduroy suit. They are from Australia, which also produces really hot men. You can find them at RMWilliams.com, the boots, not the men.


Harrsiburg, Pa.: What clothes go best when buying your book?

Carson Kressley: Cashmere and a smile. Snaps to Harrisburg. I am from PA too!


Washington, D.C.: Are suits with pleats and cuffs permanently unfashionable or is this just a temporary fad? Same question with two-button suits.

Carson Kressley: Pleats and cuffs work well on traditional British styles suits. This is the ONLY time pleats work. Two button suit are also very traditional and always look good, especially on shorter guys.


Washington D.C.: Any suggestions for relatively inexpensive shopping outside of the metropolitan New York area? Translation: name some good stores (dept or otherwise) for women/men, that won't break the proverbial bank..!

Carson Kressley: Washington DC is not a hot bed for shopping. But, alas, I bring glad tidings, there are plenty of stores in the burbs. Try Saks, Nordstrom and Hechts. Sale time is a great time to get Dept store quality and service at bargain prices. Best sales are mid summer and after the holidays. There are also some outlet centers in the DC area. Try premiumoutlets.com.


Geneva, Switzerland: Carson,

What are your favorite jeans for women?

Carson Kressley: Right now I love Tsubi, from Australia.


Frederick, Md: Carson,

Are Trucker Hats out of style except for celebs?

Carson Kressley: And truckers.


Washington, D.C.: Carson, Stay and talk with us ALL DAY..

Can short women wear cuffed trousers?Carson Kressley: I have to get home to my wife and kids! No really, back to the question. Cuffed pants look great on women, especially if you are a tall gal. Remember how great they looked on Katherine Hepburn? Thought so.


Easton, MD: Carson, is there an age when long hair is inappropriate on women? I am 45 and have very curly auburn hair that is a bit longer than shoulder length. What should I do to look currant?


Carson Kressley: Do you really want to look like a small grape used mostly in the making of wine? I think you mean current. Did I tell you I used to be an English teacher? It sounds to me like you have gorgeous hair. And despite your age, which by the way 45 is the new 35, if it looks beautiful keep it long!


Beltsville, Md.: Is it still OK to wear a shearling motorcycle jacket this fall?

Carson Kressley: Yes. Just be sure to wear pants and a shirt or sweater too. Love the shearling motorcycle jacket. John Varvatos and Ralph Lauren make great ones and certainly vintage is great too!


Washington, D.C.: What should I do with all of my pleated trousers?

washingtonpost.com : Good Will or Salvation Army?

Carson Kressley: Go with Goodwill. I think the Salvation Army doesn't like "the Gays". Wait a minute. In that case, Salvation Army it is.


Leesburg, Va.: Carson dear:
How much pink is too much pink? I have been addicted to pink for years and fear I am dangerously close to the point of making people puke. Will it ever be "out"? How to wean myself off of my default color? Grazie.

Carson Kressley: I too have fallen victim to o.c.p.d. aka "obsessive compulsive pink disorder. I feel your pain. Pink is my favorite color but do not dress in pink from head to toe. You could look like a walking ham.


Centreville, Va: Carson,

Should short women wear capris?

Carson Kressley: Short women yes. Short men, no. In fact, men should never wear capris. Unless they are "summering" on Fire Island with a man named Sergio.


Timbucktoo, Arkansas: Carson Carson Carson

Is tweed better worn in the hamptons or the city?

Carson Kressley: Tweed is great anywhere; city or country. Work the accessories to change the mood. Think rugged boots and oxfords for country and sleek tailored loafers for city. The best of both worlds. PS Where in God's green earth is Timbuktoo, Ark?


Janet Bennett: Thanks, everyone, that was awesome!


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