We finish answering Sunday Source staffers' questions -- at last! -- with this trio of queries.
Q As the owner of many rather garish pairs of bright bowling shoes, how careful should I be about matching my shoes with my outfit?
Justin Rude, editorial aide
A Not overly. Get too matchy-matchy with rainbow-bright shoes and the results will look like Krusty the Clown crossed with Toucan Sam. Jeans and neutral-colored pants are easy options that look great. It's nice if some aspect of your upper half gives a nod to your shoes' hues (red shoes, red logo tee), but it's not essential. A dark, monochromatic ensemble worn with candy-colored footwear ensures that all anyone sees is your shoes. This, of course, may be precisely why you bought them -- so if you don't mind having your feet be the focus, go for it.
QI have two questions about ties: What's the correct length for a tie? And in a casual setting, is it okay to fling yours back while eating?
Priya Phadke, assistant art director
A Here you go, in order:
1. One-half inch past the top of the trouser waist appears to be industry standard. Just a smidge of the tie's point snaking over your belt buckle.
2. Nope. Sorry!
Q Is Washington's reputation as a dull fashion town deserved?
Joe Heim, assistant editor
A Check out the Howard University campus, or the crowd queued up outside the Warehouse Next Door. If those scenes aren't stylish, I'm not sure what is. As stores go, Meeps & Aunt Neensie's on U Street is one of a few places I know that sells affordable vintage T-shirts -- and the quality trumps many a New York shop's picked-over offerings. If the Pentagon City mall doesn't hold much by way of sartorial surprise, the Value Village in Hyattsville more than makes up for it. (I once found a creamy organza shift from the 1960s, flocked with dozens of tiny crocheted daisies, in pristine condition. For $25.)
Still, it's easy to understand why the city gets a bad fashion rap: Look around K Street during lunchtime. This is a town dominated by lawmakers, and most worker bees take a to-the-letter approach to getting dressed. Trousers are pressed, skirts hit precisely at the knee, shoes are gleaming. The result is correct, yes -- but not terribly creative. Say as much to people, and they'll often reply that they're not into fashion. But such attention to detail suggests otherwise: It's possible to care about fashion (what you're wearing and how it makes you feel) without giving a hoot about Fashion ("Black is back -- and it's never been better").
At least a third of the questions sent to StyleQ ask how short, long, wide or narrow various items of clothing are "supposed" to be. Focus on such do's and don'ts and you'll always look appropriate. There's plenty to be said for that. But fashion is also about imagination and daring -- and by "daring" I don't mean plunging necklines or low-rise jeans.
Consider the Chanel suit, which for many women is the first and last word in conservative chic. When shown in 1954, its straight skirt and simple cardigan jacket befuddled an audience accustomed to dramatic full skirts and tightly-cinched waists. You don't have to reinvent the rules every time you leave the house, but Coco's kind of elegantly-wrought insouciance is worth thinking about, no matter what city you call home.
Wondering how to wear it? E-mail Suzanne D'Amato, Sunday Source's deputy editor and a former fashion writer at Vogue, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and phone number.