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-- Sonny G, Downtown

Don't get out much, do you, Sonny. If you did, you'd realize that most of those vicious garments will be snatched off the rack and worn in public. Fashion scientists call the phenomenon "shopper's coma," a momentary taste blackout caused by the sight of a REDUCED FOR CLEARANCE! sign. It's like a lost-time experience. One minute you're idly strolling into a store, the next thing you know, you're at home, removing from your shopping bag a half-price orange Spandex jumpsuit with a large black eagle embroidered on the back, though you have no memory of actually having bought it.

Fashion designers and retailers aren't in the business of offering us things they're sure we won't buy. Little of what you see on those racks will go unsold. But if it can't be moved there, the clothing will be bought by a jobber, who will resell it to discount stores, where they offer it to us again at even more delightful prices.... Once we get it home, if it has no good Halloween costume potential, it will next end up hanging from a bush in our front yard at a garage sale. And here we'll eagerly, even proudly point out to browsers that it has never been worn. ("See? The price tag's still on it!") Who could pass up a $100 orange Spandex jumpsuit for only 75 cents? But in case they do, the suit will either (1) find its way to a charity, which means you might one day see it on TV, worn by a starving teenager in Bangladesh; or (2) it goes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, where someone else buys it, later tries to sell it at a yard sale, then donates it back to Goodwill again, and on and on. This yard sale/Goodwill cycle is a vortex from which the jumpsuit might never be rescued. But think of all the people who've made a living off the ugly thing in the meantime.

8/8/02

Matthew:

Who makes those funky-looking Terminator-style shades that make everybody look like Ah-nold? Is it an odd coincidence that only senior citizens seem to be wearing them?

-- Salvatore Filippone, San Diego

So you're bugged when you see Gramps stylin' down the avenue in those big, bad, bad shades. Better turn this over to Grandma Alice. She'll set you straight.

"Thank you, Matthew. As for you, young man, Mr. Filippone, wait till you get to be our age and you want to make a fashion statement. Think it's a coincidence that there's a Baby Gap but no Grandpa Gap? No Extremely Old Navy? Does Jimmy Choo make orthopedic shoes? We're just handed a muumuu and a copy of Modern Maturity and shoved into a corner with a bunch of cats and a bag of knitting and an afghan. Why does everybody think old people are crazy about fuzzy things?"

Uh, take it easy, Grandma. So what's with those glasses he asked about?

"If some granny wants to look like the Terminator, well, I say it beats Driving Miss Daisy."

The glasses, Grandma --

"If Mr. Filippone wants his own pair, he can pick them up in sunglass stores or maybe have eye surgery -- cataract surgery, for instance -- and get them from his doctor. The oversized, dark shades are designed to block direct and reflected light that could creep around the side of the frames. They're also designed so you can wear them over your regular glasses."

10/11/01

Dear Matt:

I'm inspired to go full drag this Halloween. As a straight male who's never dressed up in drag before, I have zero fashion sense. What outfits should I avoid because they make my butt look big? Where do I find shoes for guy-sized feet?

-- Michael...or

Michelle?

Vista

Hillcrest at Halloween. What better playground for the aspiring gender illusionist. Well, Hillcrest in the middle of May, too, I guess. The clothes, shoes, makeup, etc., is the easy part. Plenty of outrageous shops around Fifth Avenue will rent you just the right outfit and give you makeup tips too. But there's more to this than meets the eye, so the elves skated over to Lips, the wiggy drag-and-dine at Fifth and Nutmeg. A gracious and accommodating Tootie (who does a dynamite Cher) condensed her nine years of experience for you.

A drag queen's best friends? Sez Tootie, "Big hair and duct tape, honey." Big hair slims the appearance of a man's larger face, neck, and shoulders. And it's sexy. Ditto big eyelashes. Warns Tootie, "Leave the skin-tight dresses to the professionals." Got a beer gut? A skirt and loose top is your best fashion choice. A plunging neckline also enhances the illusion of a slim face and neck and offers a chance for some naughty cleavage, achieved with the aforementioned duct tape. Yank your "back fat" (Tootie's words) around to the front and tape it all in place. "The higher the heels, the closer to God," Tootie croons. Sexy spikes lengthen the appearance of your legs.

Of course, you can wear all the glam rags you want, but if you don't stand and move like a woman, then you're just a nose tackle in a ball gown. Tootie advises that you hold your chin in, a bit closer to your neck and chest than usual. Keep your elbows close to your body to give you graceful arm and hand gestures. And most important, walk by placing one foot in front of the other, not with a man's typical wider gait. Think "matador," not "stevedore." That also makes your butt look cute walking away, adds Tootie coyly. "Oh, wait!" she says as we're leaving. "How could I forget? And shave everything! Immediately!"

MOTHER NATURE, WHAT A GAL!

11/ 27/02

Dear Matt and Alice:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

-- Kelly Gleeson-Duff, San Diego

Lots. So, Kelly, how much ground would a groundhog hog if a groundhog could hog ground? (Before you answer, remember that the woodchuck and the groundhog are the same animal.) And how much sap would a sapsucker suck if a sapsucker could suck sap? (Hey, wait a minute. A sapsucker can suck sap. On a good day, maybe two or three ounces.) And how many nuts would a nuthatch hatch if....

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