Coatdress a Good Choice for Speechmaker

Times Fashion Editor

Question: Please recommend a dress to take the place of a two-piece suit as appropriate business attire. I wear a size 2. I'm especially interested in a dress that will be suitable to wear during a speech I have to give in September to colleagues in the insurance business. What color? What style?--H.H.

Answer: The coatdress illustrated here would be an excellent choice. Its classic lines will establish you as trustworthy. Its red color will incite your audience to listen. Its design, inspired by the late Coco Chanel, is becoming to every figure and is currently the rage with the just-plain-money set. It's from Albert Nipon Executive Dress and is available in sizes 2-14 for $152 at Bullocks Wilshire, Miss Wilshire Dresses. The fabric is a polyester crepe, so the side pleating is sure to stay pleated.

Q: I have been told not to wear knits to work. Is this advice sound?--A.P.

A: The person who told you not to wear knits is as dated as John Molloy's advice in his "Dress for Success" books. Molloy fostered the idea that knits, especially sweaters, would send you straight down the corporate ladder or get you blackballed from the social register. Forget it. First Lady Nancy Reagan's favorite daytime outfits are knits. Some of the most important women executives in America wear knitted dresses and suits to work on a daily basis. And right now the most fashionable fabric of the season--jersey--is a knit.

Q: Please tell me what type of coat or jacket I will need for a September trip to Italy. I will be in Rome, Florence and Venice.--B.S.

A: The weather in Italy will be very similar to the weather here, so dress accordingly. September can be a scorcher in Rome, but it can be much cooler than Los Angeles in Florence and Venice. Take a lightweight coat and a big scarf to layer over it when the thermometer dips. This is a less boring look than the trench-style raincoat with the zip-out lining, and it's almost as practical if you buy one of those fold-up plastic raincoats and an umbrella. The big jacket in Italy is still the oversize, shoulder-padded style with rounded shoulders. And the newest coats are long--almost touching the ground.

Q: My elderly mother needs to be fitted for a bra--she cannot simply pick one off the rack. Do corsetieres still exist? Where? Many of the people who work in bra departments of the major stores don't even know where the stock is.--B.C.

A: Livingstone's, 339 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, has a credentialed corsetiere who will be able to help your mother if anyone can. Her name is Mona Leese.

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