- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2005

Cross August 1st with Washington, DC and what do you get? 100-plus degrees for your company’s annual picnic. Why this event insists on being held, without fail, on the hottest, most humid, droplets-down-the-dip-of-your-back day of the year is beyond me, but I’ve learned through experience that arguing for a May picnic is about as effective as trying to convince a vegetarian to try ostrich. Here are some wardrobe guidelines to get you through this annual ritual.

The problem with the company picnic, besides ants, is that this casual yet business-related occasion blurs the line between professional and relaxed so much that it is difficult to tell when you have stepped over it. If you are going to miss the mark, it is best to err on the side of less skin. In other words, unless “company picnic” is a code for “pool party” or “day at the beach” you should avoid swimsuits at all costs. You might look great in a bikini, but your boss does not need to know this.

Also in the list of things to avoid: cut-off shorts; short shorts; biker shorts; muscle shirts; concert T-shirts; socks with sandals. If bikinis on great bodies are out, this rule holds doubly true for overabundant, adipose flesh that tends to easily find its way out of summer clothes, which are lighter and cover less than their winter counterparts. Ditto for overexposed, lobster flesh and peeling skin. Keep it covered up!

So, what to wear? If your picnic is taking place at a shaded eating establishment such as a crab shack or riverfront caf, linen is your best friend. Ladies, pair linen pants with sandals and a light linen top or cotton knit blend. Guys, select a woven, button-down shirt — and this is the time to break out the pinks and the yellows. Light colors reflect the heat, so avoid blacks and dark blues. You’ll stay cool and casual without looking as if you just trekked in from a mid-day 15-inning game at the baseball stadium.

Another great option for ladies? The sundress, a summer staple. This is the perfect occasion, so pull it out and show off your femininity! Check out Esprit, Nicole Miller and Shoshanna for some pretty floral numbers this season. Pair one with a fun straw hat and slingbacks and you’ve got the perfect picnic ensemble.

Sport shorts for the true picnic when you have blankets on the grass. Rules above hold, but mid-thigh to above-the-knee shorts are on the front page of Picnic Best Practices, and can be hooked up with your choice of tops, including a T-shirt — sans holes, stains and see-through fabric.

Finally, the No. 1 rule? Have fun!

Dear Jordan:

Whenever I buy pants they are too long, but after I have them taken up at the tailor, they always seem too short. What is the rule? Lynnette - Chevy Chase

Dear Lynnette:

Full-length pants should fall to the middle of your heel and break slightly over the front of your shoe. The length required for this to happen will vary according to the height of the shoes you are wearing. When you go to the tailor is to try on your pants with the shoes you plan to wear with them.

Dear Jordan:

My boss never irons his clothes and looks make a difference in client meetings. How can suggest it without criticizing him? Perry - Manassas

Dear Perry:

Actions speak louder than words. Bring in a steamer and tell him you are pressing your own shirt and jacket and will press his too since you should both look your best for the clients. Since you are doing it for yourself, you are eliminating any embarrassment and most likely he will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Dear Jordan:

I am a busty, apple-shaped woman with what have been called “skinny chicken legs.” Could you give me a few tips on how to even out my top-heavy appearance?

Cherie - Manassas

Dear Cherie:

A buxom bust line can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. Here are a few tips to tone down the top-heaviness.

*Choose tops in dark colors

*Select V-necks to elongate your top, avoiding wide necklines, which

*Avoid high-waisted pants, which also exaggerate a full bust.

*Select tailored looks, which tend to minimize bulk while flattering curves

*Select boot cut or flared pants, which provide balance at the bottom

*Wear dresses, particularly solids, which tend to flatter an “apple” shape by elongating appearance while providing some fullness at the bottom.

Ms. Jordan Speer is the senior editor of an apparel business magazine and has been writing about the industry for more than nine years. Send workplace or corporate fashion questions to styleforsuccess@aol.com.

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