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For men, vested suit loses favor

By June Wells DillSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / March 18, 1983



The man whose wardrobe needs updating for spring will find a wide range of possibilities. Five days of style seminars and designer presentations for the national press in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Men's Fashion Association of America (MFA), featured a marathon parade of authoritative double-breasted suits for business, super new lightweight fabrics that tailor well, and an unprecedented range of spirited colors for sportswear.

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Clothing confidence for the '80s, whether for business, casual, or formal wear - that's the aim.

As Chip Tolbert, MFA fashion director, told reporters, ''Subtlety and conservatism continue to dominate tailored clothing, but in leisure-wear, designers and manufacturers have pulled out all the stops.''

Signs for spring point to navy, banker's gray, and fresh misty mixes for dress and business in new treatments of such old fabric favorites as tropical worsted, poplin, polyester blends, silk, and linen. Many are textured for heightened interest.

Later, when the weather gets steamy, a man can slip into that trusty old standby, a seersucker suit, and remain comfortable.

Double-breasted suits are getting good acceptance for spring, according to industry spokesmen. The new models have higher gorges (the point where lapel and collar join) than earlier styles, which gives an illusion of height.

Does this mean the vested suit is dead?

No. But as Norman Karr, the MFA executive director, explained, ''Their numbers are declining.''

Despite the appeal of Jack Bannon's vest-wearing image on the old Lou Grant TV show, the point was made that a man sitting at a desk usually doesn't like the confinement of a vest. And if he's wearing a jacket, he leaves it unbuttoned when seated. It's a matter of comfort.

Blazers, first introduced nearly 60 years ago, are popular for spring, in colors ranging from traditional navy to pastels and even purple.

For those who say bright colors crop up every summer, only to vanish in the fall, let it be known that more and more men are getting their personal color charts and becoming increasingly aware of what different colors can do for them. So strong colors will continue into fall.

In casual coats, summer tweeds in soft shades and subtle patterns look like winners. Plaids and checks are popular, too, while safari styling appears in a number of lines. Calvin Klein's safari jackets are full and elasticized at the waist, DiMitri shows safari jackets with pegged sport trousers, some with bellows pockets and zippered legs.

On the subject of coats, a panel of menswear retailers representing major stores across the United States noted that a man trying on a jacket first checks the sleeve length and fit through the body (both easy to alter), but should give first attention to the shoulder line and the way a collar hugs the neck.

Accessories add to the appeal of this season's clothes. Spiffy looks to spark any wardrobe include spring's beautifully coordinated shirts and slightly wider ties, updated boater hats (so lightweight they feel no heavier that a paper party hat), and colorful suspenders.