Dear Answer Angel:
I was invited to a wedding shower and the invite explicitly said, "No gifts please." Does that really mean don't bring a gift or should I buy something? What? Thank you!
— Empty handed?
"That really means don't bring a gift," says Anna Post, co-author of the forthcoming updated edition of the good manners bible, "Emily Post's Etiquette" (and great-great-granddaughter of Emily herself).
You didn't ask, but Post says it's fine to stipulate "no gifts" on any invite — with one big exception: weddings. For those, "You don't want any mention of gifts ever. The focus needs to be 100 percent on inviting people you love and not on any gift or lack thereof." But how to let people know you don't want wedding gifts? Post says by word of mouth or on your wedding website. "Don't do it by Facebook
, because I highly doubt all your Facebook friends are coming to your wedding."
And a related question …
My friends and I are getting to that age where we have everything we could possibly want. So, when birthdays roll around it's, "Don't get me anything. I don't need a thing." So what's a pal to do? Can you think of some good, inexpensive ways to show my friends I really care without giving them stuff they don't want or need?
— Palsy Walsy
Dear Palsy W.:
I love the idea of a handwritten note telling dear friends — in specific detail — how much they mean. A contribution in your friends' names to their favorite charities also is a win-win. And let's hear from Anna Post again: "Perishables are great. Food, flowers, wine. And gift certificates to do something. A gift doesn't just have to just be a thing; it can be an experience." Post suggests concert or movie tickets, a gift certificate for a restaurant, a trip with you apple picking or ice skating, or a beauty treatment.
Dear Answer Angel:
In our community it is common to fly both the American flag and the flag of the country of origin of the homeowner. My new neighbors are Danish
, and I'd like to buy them a Denmark flag as a welcome gift. But where can I get one? This got me wondering if this two-flag practice is acceptable. And should both flags be on one flagpole as opposed to two separate ones?
— Paul L.
Sounds like a lovely custom and totally acceptable. With rare exception, after all, our forbears came here from somewhere else. There are loads of online sites to buy flags in a wide array of sizes and materials with and without flagpoles. Type "Denmark flag" into your search engine and you'll have trouble choosing from all the options.
As for the display? There's something called the Federal Flag Code that serves as a civilian guide, but there are no penalties for not following it. This being the federal government, nothing is simple and there are parts of the Code that contradict each other on the matter of flag display. Gee, what a surprise.
If you fly the flags from two poles (called "flagstaffs" in the code), the flags should be about the same size and at the same height, with the U.S. flag in the place of prominence, which (for some reason) is to the viewer's left.
On a single flagpole, the U.S. flag gets top billing.
Dear Heavenly One:
I'm not sure whether you have a relationship with a male angel, but the one I live with has perennial fashion questions every time we go out to eat, or to a gathering of some type, and I am weary of trying to answer them. Perhaps you can help.
What does "smart casual" or "business casual" mean in a good, foodie-friendly — but not formal —restaurant? Can he wear well-tailored jeans, such as Canali
or PPD or Hugo Boss
? In warm weather, does he need a blazer? What type of shirt is OK? (Not short-sleeved, I assume.) And what type of shoes would be acceptable?
— Befuddled Frau
This sounds like a weaselly answer but at least it's honest: It depends. The easy part of your question is the shoes: no gym shoes or sandals that show toes; leather is safest.
For restaurants, no matter what the label, dark-wash jeans that fit well are probably OK at all but the fanciest dining spots. But some, especially membership clubs, have anti-denim rules so you might want to call ahead. A shirt with a collar (short sleeves are fine) is the right idea, and most places accept a polo shirt as part of the business casual look. A blazer is not necessary, although a few snooty places still insist on jackets for men.
As for other gatherings, the goal is to look professional and put together. Most of the guidelines above apply. Except when they don't. It used to be so much easier, didn't it, when men put on suits and ties and didn't have to worry about it?
Dear Answer Angel:
I can't help but think that there is a secret way to get my hands on special limited-time-only collections, like Missoni
is doing for Target
. I'm worried that my favorites will be scooped up and sold out online and in the stores. Is there some trick I don't know?
— Fashion Lover
Dear Fashion Lover:
I wish I had better news. Target spokeswoman Kristy Welker says there's no secret handshake or password that will get you what you want. The stuff arrives at target.com
and in stores on Sept. 13. In the past, the store partnered with luxury discount online retailer Gilt Groupe to offer certain collections there. And there might be similar partnerships in the future. But not now and not with the Missoni stuff.