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Q. I am attending my company Christmas party in downtown Dallas at the Fairmont Hotel.  The attire states Cowboy Cocktail (what does this mean?) and my husband and I are definitely not into the Cowboy thing.  What would be appropriate to wear?  Also my husband is in the Navy - is one of his dress uniforms appropriate attire?
-Not on the Range

A. Alright, so you don’t want to put on a cowboy hat and boots, but you can still get dressed up and add one piece to your outfit so you’re not snubbing the rest of the crowd.  Wear something you can add and take off after being at the party for 30 minutes or so. Why not add a plaid kerchief or bandana tied around your neck?  It’s something small and simple. I’d suggest that your husband wear a nice suit or sport jacket and pants in lieu of one of his Navy dress uniforms. Enjoy the party and be sure to keep your “not into the cowboy thing” to yourself, since you may inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings who planned the party.

Q. I am wearing a tea-length bridesmaid dress in the middle of January.  What type of coat can I wear?  The dress is lower in the back.   
-Cover Confusion    

A. It’s best to look for a dressy jacket that is slightly cropped and doesn’t go below the hips or choose a 3/4 length that is the same length as the dress.

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left to right: Nanette Lepore Turkish Delight Jacket, $415 at; Elie Tahari Riley Wool/Cashmere Coat, $798 at; Trina Turk ‘Ellsworth’ Satin Jacket, $498 at

Q. I need an answer from someone I can trust. I have to attend a gala for the corporation I work at.  On the invitation it calls for cocktail attire. My son, who will escort me, has picked out a full-length black gown.  I am afraid it is too formal for this event.  Would it be tacky for me to be a little over dressed?  I am usually the one in the crowd that is a usually a little under dressed or barely in the appropriate category.  My son says that for once I should go all out and dress to impress, but I am uncomfortable.
-Overdress to Impress

A. First off, you should be comfortable in this dress to impress situation.  While I want you to look good, I also want you to fit into the setting and not stand out and have co-workers and colleagues wonder why you went full-blown.  In this case, a full-length gown would be too much for the occasion.  A gown is appropriate when the invite calls for it, like at a black tie wedding, a gala, a costly fundraiser, etc. It would be lovely for your son to escort you wearing a dress that hits just below the knee or a dressy skirt and top and perhaps a fitted velvet jacket or cardigan with beading or crystals.

Q. Is it ok to wear high heel boots with cute capri pants in the fall?
-Viva la Capri?

Picture 3-3A. Yes, you can wear capris, just be sure that your capris don’t look summery.  We like to call them cropped pants in the Fall and they should be of heavier fabrics like corduroy, denim or wool. And your cropped pants should cover over the top of your boots, if not then wear fun tights or have nubby socks that peek out just above the your boots.

Theory Calvan C Velvet Pants, $245 at

Q. I’m hoping you can help me! My cousin is getting married on November 5, 2006 at 4pm on Perdido Beach, Florida. What is appropriate to wear? Nothing has been said re: dress formality. While it’s the Fall season, it’s still the beach and should be warm and I’m unsure of the appropriate clothes and shoes to wear!
-Beach Be-Wonder

A. Since it’s on the beach, my first choice would be a dress that is cocktail length skimming just below your knees, second choice would be a skirt and top. Don’t wear pants—boring for a wedding and you want to move freely on the beach. Choose a light fabric like cotton or silk jersey, but skip linen since the season for that is over. Look for a dress that perhaps has short or 3/4 sleeves or wear one that is strapless, sleeveless or has spaghetti straps and bring along a little fitted cardigan or wrap. Since it’s a late afternoon into evening affair, feel free to wear pretty prints. And be sure to wear flats or low-heeled sandals and assume you’ll be taking them off in the sand so be sure to have nice painted toenails.

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from left to right: Nicole Miller Tiki Print Dress, $310 at; Single Wrap Dress, $268 at; Lumiani Quarto, $89.95 at; J. Reneé Pixie, $78.95 at

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