Monday, June 05, 2006

Sandals with socks! EEK!

Style mavens point out the fashion faux pas of summer, and what you can do to avoid them

By JENNETTE BARNES, Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - When summer comes, the layers of taste are sometimes peeled away, like a cover-up revealing a bad bathing suit. It's as if winter is so long, people forget the rules of warm-weather style.

Here, some of the SouthCoast's fashion-forward offer advice on how to avoid a summer fashion faux pas.

1. Socks with sandals.
There's no excuse for the most glaring error of them all, says Angie Bernardo, manager of The Glass Slipper shoe store in New Bedford.

Others agree.

"Oh my God, that's really bad," says an Express employee at the Dartmouth Mall. Ditto for stockings with sandals.

Hands down, these looks are right up there with pants hiked up above the waist or a heavy sweater tucked in.

The solution? Make a choice. If you want the look and comfort of sandals, bare your toes. If you want warmth, or if you have feet that shouldn't be seen in public, wear closed-toed shoes.

If you must:
For people who can pull off the post-hippie nature-loving look, thick ragg socks (the more textured-looking the better) with Birkenstocks might work.

Emphasis on "might."

"I guess if the person can pull it off, that's fine, but I wouldn't say that's a very cool fashion," says the woman from Express.

2. Men in tank tops.
Outside the gym, the ribbed tank undershirt is hard to pull off unless you're Brad Pitt, and even he rarely stoops that low. It may look good in a black-and-white cologne ad, but that doesn't mean it looks good on real men.

"I don't like it," says Celia Brito, owner of Celia's Boutique in downtown New Bedford. A cotton button-front shirt, worn loose at the neck, is a much more "tastefully sexy" way to hit the town, she says.

If you must:
Sleeveless jerseys work for a pickup game, and smooth-knit tanks with decent coverage (no chest hair peeking out) may be OK for activities like beach volleyball. Muscle tone is the look, so if your arms are more Fred Rogers than Vince Vaughn, wear a T-shirt.

3. Busty and braless.
Halter tops are all the rage, but for the bustier woman they just don't work without a bra, says Ms. Brito of Celia's.

If you must:
Stay on the beach. Or, better yet, "Try a sexy top that can be worn with a bra," Ms. Brito says, such as something with ruffles that cover the straps. Or reacquaint yourself with the strapless bra.

4. For men, the sneaker du jour.
"When people hear 'casual,' right away guys think of sneakers," says Michael Friedland, owner of Harve's Shoe Box in Dartmouth.

Since men typically own fewer pairs of shoes than women, they try to make sneakers work with anything below a suit. But the ubiquitous white sneaker isn't the only way to go. Driving moccasins are stylish right now, Mr. Friedland says. They are less casual than boat shoes, but less formal than dress shoes.

If you must:
Match clothing style to the sneakers. If you're partial to white sneakers, that means wearing a lot of T-shirts. Otherwise, die-hard sneaker-wearers looking for a more formal look can try "trail" shoes, which are marketed as low-cut hiking shoes but often look and feel like a brown sneaker. They blend better with khakis.

5. For women, strappy shoes a size too small.
Far too many times, says Ms. Bernardo of The Glass Slipper, she sees women with their heel and toes hanging over the edges of a strappy shoe or sandal.

If you must:
Next time, take more time when you're trying on sandals and buy a bigger size.

6. Too-tight fright.
Just because summer clothes show more skin, that doesn't mean people should put every roll of flesh on display, says Alice Touchette, a dressmaker and designer in Wareham.

"Very often," she says, "women will buy by size rather than cut." As with the teeny sandals, take your time and try on different sizes. A size 10 from one manufacturer may fit well, but another may fit more like an 8, or even a 6.

Men, too, fall victim to this fashion mistake.

"It's better to leave a little to the imagination," Ms. Touchette says.

If you must:
Redefine "tight" to mean fitted, not painted-on.

7. Sparkling like the 4th of July.
While she loves the return of more "girly" details on clothes, Ms. Touchette warns, "Don't overdo the sparkle."

Glitter, sequins, beads and metallics can quickly overwhelm an outfit, especially when multiple pieces are worn together.

If you must:
Set a limit of one or two touches of sparkle, she says. Accessories like shimmery scarves or bags do the trick without going overboard.

8. Shorts too short.
Clothing retailers say longer shorts are back this year, but most people still have the shorter styles of the last few years in their closets. Some women look awesome in high-leg shorts. But for others, Daisy Dukes are just plain impossible.

Anne Frechette, co-owner of A.S. Deams in Westport, says some older women are no longer comfortable in shorts.

"We have a three-quarter length capri pant that takes the place of the shorts some people shouldn't be wearing," she says.

If you must:
Short-shorts are fine if you have the legs for it, and many people do. Before you buy, bend at the waist and make sure the shorts cover whatever you need covered. Another condition: No pleats. They're so 1990.

9. Dirty white shoes or Heels
"White is something you have to keep pristine, or else forget it," says Ms. Bernardo. She cringes to see women go out in white shoes with ripped or scuff-covered heels.

The best look in women's white dress shoes is strappy, without stockings. Pumps are harder to pull off, pristine or not.

"White is one of those colors that if you don't do it in a good way, it's very bad," she says.

If you must:
Clean them ASAP, or consider retiring them in favor of a light but more forgiving shade, such as tan.

10. Bad toenails.
Back to those sock-free sandals: Well-kept feet are a must.

"Always have a fresh pedicure," Ms. Bernardo says. "A lot of people think it's OK to go out with chipped toenails."

Or worse.

If you must:
Foregoing the salon doesn't have to mean bad feet. For men and women alike, a professional pedicure may be nice, but if you can't afford it, at-home hygiene is enough, says Ms. Brito.

Beauty supply stores sell pedicure kits with enough tools of the trade to save on salon bills.

"You can do a really great job at home," she says. "Save the money and buy a cute top."

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