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FOR BUSINESS OR PLEASURE, HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT SUIT

Suiting up for fall? Fashion experts tell you how to do it right, especially when it comes to choosing a flattering, comfortable two-piece ensemble.

Whether it's choosing a suit for business or the party of the season, here are some tips on fit, cut and style.

The key to wearing this season's mannish suits is to soften them. That menswear-inspired blazer may be layered over a silky floral blouse or, in the fashion magazines anyway, a camisole and the highest of heels.

"Another way to make it even more comfortable, feminine and unique is to pair it with a knit layering piece," like a knit turtleneck, said Margery Myers, a spokeswoman for Talbots.

It adds softness and a layer of comfort that gives a menswear-inspired look a feminine touch, she said.

"A slim skirt on a larger woman works only if it is tapered ever so slightly from below hips to hemline," writes Hara Estroff Marano in "Style Is Not a Size: Looking and Feeling Great in the Body You Have" (Bantam, $15).

"The adjustment may be minimal, but you can't afford to make the mistake of thinking it's too minimal to bother with. A skirt that falls in an A- or even a plumb-line from hips to hem -- as most slim skirts do -- broadens your silhouette."

For the large-busted woman, a suit jacket that can be worn open is a great look, said San Diego, Calif., fashion specialist Rita Coronel.

"Sometimes women think they have to button everything, but what happens is that the jacket pulls across in front. A blazer-type jacket -- what we used to call the boyfriend jacket or unstructured -- is better," she said.

If you separate your suit and wear the jacket with an unmatched bottom, for example, pay attention to color.

"I'm a petite, so when I separate my suit, I use something light or bright on the top of the body," Ms. Coronel said.

If you go Ralph Lauren-esque and pair camel pants with a navy jacket, for example, repeat the camel on the top -- with a ribbed turtleneck, for example -- to elongate the look.

The plus-size woman shouldn't wear her jacket too short -- especially a style that stops at the widest part of your body.

"No matter how you slice it, a short jacket that hits midhip cuts the body almost exactly in half and widens it. A jacket or other garment that stops at your widest body part always emphasizes width at the expense of proportion," Ms. Marano writes in her book.

Similarly, avoid skirts that are hemmed at the broadest point of your calves.

Double-breasted jackets do not have to be worn buttoned. If you are a petite woman, a four-button style may be more flattering than a six-button, unless the latter feature smaller buttons that are placed closer together. Otherwise, the jacket will overwhelm you, Ms. Coronel said.

For the smoothest fit, choose a skirt with a back zipper that is nearly invisible. Side zippers can appear bulky or interfere with the line of the skirt.

When buying pants or a skirt, buy for the biggest part of you -- which for many women is the hips, Ms. Coronel said.

"Most people buy for the waist and then pour in their hips. Buy the size that truly fits (have the waistband taken in, if necessary) and then cut off the size label if you don't want to see it," she said.
-- Susan Martin