Venice Beach Flexes Its Shopping Muscle

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

DEAR HOT: My friends shop at the Venice Beach boardwalk and come home with really cute stuff at very reasonable prices. I go there and all I see are "Life's a Beach" T-shirts. Is there anything new? Where is it?

--R.K., GARDENA

DEAR R.K.: This is the Coney Island of shopping experiences, not a place where you glide daintily to and from well-appointed emporiums. Venice Beach wants to entertain you, so let it.

We found many inexpensive treasures on the boardwalk, where there's more than surfer jams and sunglasses.

What first caught our eye was "Bud the Birdman," a new addition this summer. For $5, Bud will take a Polaroid of you wearing one of his giant parrots in your hair. After a parrot dances on your head, you'll be in a better mood to ferret out the boardwalk's latest treasures. Be sure to see Linda Lagosse and Magnus Walker's Venetian Paradise stand at 640 Ocean Front Walk (between Sunset and Thornton). Their designs include whimsical '60s-inspired Mad Hatter-type hats and funky patchwork overalls, vests and jeans.

Reckless Women, at 421 Ocean Front Walk, has a good selection of inexpensive costume jewelry, including rhinestone earrings, colorful bangle bracelets and hair ornaments. And be sure to stop in at All One People, 1011 Ocean Front Walk, which was recently transformed into a candle shop for a scene in the upcoming film "The Doors." In real life the shop carries a great selection of ethnic clothing, jewelry and accessories from Guatemala, Africa and Jamaica.

We found the merchants friendly and talkative. Have a good time--and don't forget your sunscreen!

DEAR HOT: My husband and I will be attending several black-tie affairs this fall, and for once I'd like to know what's appropriate to wear. Sales people suggest everything from strapless cocktail dresses to ball gowns! Is there any clear-cut definition?

--D.V., SANTA MONICA

DEAR D.V.: Etiquette expert Letitia "Tish" Baldrige lays it on the line in her book, "Complete Guide to Executive Manners." For the fall and winter seasons, she recommends a short, three-quarter or full-length evening dress of a "winter evening fabric," such as satin, brocade, sequins, lame or heavy taffeta. Jewelry can be glittery (real or faux ); shoes and evening bags should match (patent leather or peau de soie work well), and evening hosiery should be sheer.

Tish offers safe, sage advice, but this is Los Angeles, where some people believe studded black leather constitutes formal wear. And since there's nothing worse than showing up for an event dressed inappropriately (it's been the subject of several of our nightmares), we suggest finding out as much about the event as you can before you go, perhaps by consulting the host or hostess, or by asking someone else who's going. That way, you can find out if a short dress would be appropriate or if most of the women will be wearing long gowns.

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