Originally created 11/09/99

Black tie-up?

You may have your bottled water and your flashlights and your canned goods ready for the turn of the century, but do you have your tuxedo?

With the number of parties set for New Year's Eve, Y2K could herald a fashion emergency for those who haven't planned in advance. Setting aside some stylish threads is a task that shouldn't wait, suppliers say.

"Usually men who are renting a tuxedo wait until the last minute," said Sho-Ane Seaton of Sho-Ane's Designs on Broad Street. "Whether it's for New Year's Eve or Christmas, they rent right before they need it. I wouldn't wait this year. There's going to be too high of a demand. You might not be able to rent the style you want."

Perhaps men wait to rent because they want to match what their dates will be wearing, Mrs. Seaton suggested charitably.

But do you really want to take part in the glittery millennium celebrations wearing ruffles from the rack in the back of the store? Should you start the new century already hopelessly out of fashion?

Formalwear stores in the Augusta area have already seen an increased demand for tuxedo rentals for holiday celebrations, and they expect business to pick up as the year draws to a close. Some stores can draw on warehouses of tuxedos if local supplies run short.

"`We won't ever run out of tuxedos," said Stacy Herron, assistant manager of Mitchell's Formal Wear in Augusta Mall.

But even designers and menswear companies have been producing and shipping extra outfits in anticipation of higher demand -- and they say that some of the more popular styles and sizes might be hard to come by if people wait too long.

"We're expecting tuxedos will be scarce," said Eliza Smith, a national spokeswoman for Oscar de la Renta. "We're expecting more formalwear will be rented and sold that weekend than any other weekend in history. We're betting on a record-breaking number of black-tie affairs in the coming year -- not just New Year's Eve parties, but weddings and proms and other things."

If party-goers move fast enough, they have a bigger selection to choose from than ever, designers said. Tuxedo styles this year include longer coats with multiple buttons and high closures. Smaller, banded collars are also popular.

Colored accessories in holiday greens and Burgundies are available, as well as shimmering platinums and golds expected to be popular during year 2000 festivities, Mrs. Seaton added. Vests are also in high demand during the winter -- when they can hide the added tummy bulge so many people are prone to during the cold season.

Accessories offer men a chance to place an order for a tuxedo rental ahead of time, yet still match their companion's outfit, she said. Go ahead and rent the suit, then choose accessories later.

Even without the added demand of the end of the century, men should rent their duds well in advance, said Bruce Jackson of Gentry Men's Shop in Surrey Center.

"Everything's got to be tailored or fitted or ordered," he said. "They should have their order in place by the first of December, certainly no later than the fifteenth. We can do some things at the last minute, but it's better if they go ahead and get it done."


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