Q: I recently purchased a long black tie to wear with my three-button tux. But I'm uneasy about what to pair it with?
A: I think I've mentioned my dislike of long ties with tuxes often enough, but I'll try to suspend my feelings. If you're worried about showing too much shirt, a sensible concern, you could wear a vest. But you could just as easily skip the vest and go with a clean-and-simple look. And, obviously, this tie would look even more stupid (oops, sorry!) with a cummerbund.
Q: I own about thirty sweaters, and each year I acquire more as gifts. After a few trips to the dry cleaner, they lose their shape and elasticity and develop fuzz balls. What do you suggest for the long-term care of sweaters?
A: Warning: I accept no responsibility for anyone following my advice in this matter. That said, if you want to keep your sweaters in shape, wash them. Dry cleaning is OK once in a while, but I have even successfully washed numerous sweaters the care instructions of which direly proclaim: DRY-CLEAN ONLY! Wash in cool water and use Ivory Liquid or Woolite. As for the fuzz balls, shave 'em off. If you can't find a little electric razor designed for this purpose, they are manufactured but not widely stocked, just use a regular electric and clean it out frequently.
Q: I was recently on a dinner date and discovered I did not know when to unwrap the silverware and place the napkin on my lap. Do you place the napkin on your lap when you first sit down or when you are served your first course?
A: A dinner date is as good a time as any to practice life's important lessons. Ok, here's the drill: Place your napkin on your lap when everyone is seated. If it's just you and your date, you should both do so when you sit down. If you wait, some waiter may come over and shake your napkins in your faces, especially if the restaurant is expensive. Emily Post says you should unfold your napkin only halfway at lunchtime, but this seems preposterous to me, since I am just as sloppy at lunch as I am at dinner. When you get up from the table, just place your napkin to the left of your plate. Don't fold it up; that will signal the others that you have an anal-retentive personality.
: I have black leather Kenneth Cole ankle boots. Is it acceptable to wear them with a business suit and a tie, or are they strictly business casual?
A: I'm no stickler. I think practicality comes first, so I wear ankle-high boots with suits when the weather is foul. And I think they look good. The look isn't formal, but I think it's passable for business. It wasn't so many generations ago that people wore high-button shoes. (Who am I kidding? It was eons ago.) Wearing ankle boots, you have nothing to lose but sock exposure.