Dress To Thrill

May 20 1999 3:30 AM

Dress To Thrill

You're only as pretty as you feel.

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When I was in the Nixon administration, we were all very buttoned-down during the week. On Saturdays, however, when only the "responsible" people, the presidential appointees, came to work in the White House and the Executive Office Building, casual dress was the uniform. That was our way of showing, to ourselves especially, that we were intimates of those eminent locations.

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And what about me now? On the days I go to my office, I wear a flannel shirt with no necktie if the weather is cool. In warm weather, I wear an open-necked sport shirt with no jacket. Some people have said that I dress "Israeli style," but that isn't really it. I am asserting my membership in the club of "Old Geezers." We have paid our dues. We are free of obligations, including the obligation to dress like everyone else. We know that our dress is only a trivial sign of our liberation, but it is a sign we enjoy.

So, hail to you, my lace-bedecked bus mate! May you always be elegant to yourself, as you will always be to me.

Herbert Stein, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He died in September 1999.