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PERMISSION NOT REQUIRED FOR LADY TO DON COAT THAT'S LIKE HER FRIEND'S

DEAR MISS MANNERS

I purchased a very nice, unusual-looking down jacket, and after seeing it on me, a good friend went out and bought the same jacket for herself.

When she revealed this to me, I suggested that she not wear this jacket when I wore mine, because two people in this coat would be a bit much, and I never was into the Bobbsey Twins look, anyway. She agreed at the time, but now she wears the jacket whenever she pleases without giving a thought to my feelings.

When I warn her that I'll be wearing the jacket, she seems very put out and acts as though she is making a huge sacrifice by not wearing her "best coat."

As you might imagine, this really annoys me. Since I had the coat first, I feel that she shouldn't wear hers at all when she knows she is going to be out in public with me. I'm starting to dread making plans with this woman.

GENTLE READER - Miss Manners always thought that humor about the horror of two ladies finding themselves similarly costumed was nasty propaganda from gentlemen who all dress alike. Even two ladies in the same ball dress look different; two ladies in the same down jacket can hardly be considered a laughingstock.

There are only two ways to ensure uniqueness of costume - one hideously expensive and one thrifty. Order it from a couturier (items from their regular collections that cost more than your car are not exclusive), or make it yourself.

If you really feel terrible about dressing like anyone else, you should choose whichever of those methods suits your budget.

But Miss Manners is afraid that she cannot countenance a rule that requires one lady to obtain the permission of another before she gets dressed.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - We went to a celebration for which the invitation said "black tie." My husband wore a tuxedo, and I wore a black dress with a corsage.

I was the only guest to appear with a corsage. Needless to say, I felt a little awkward.

What is a general rule for wearing corsages to social functions? How can you tell from the invitation? Does the time of year have any effect?

GENTLE READER - Miss Manners, who has finicky opinions about formal dress, is delighted to have an opportunity to make a declaration of freedom - you can wear flowers to any social event at any time. Whooppeee!

This is because flowers, whether or not they are gathered into the badgelike corsage, are merely decoration. Miss Manners is aware that young gentlemen are supposed to give them to young ladies whom they escort (or who escort them) to proms, that they are sometimes added to the wedding flower bill as a "requirement" for certain female relatives, and that those honored at birthdays or meetings may have flowers bestowed upon them.

However, wearing flowers is still not like wearing medals. Giving them remains merely a charming gesture, and if your husband was the only one at the celebration to think of doing so, you should merely reflect how sweet he is, and not worry about the other ladies' costumes.

In a dilemma about giving or receiving presents? Help is available in Miss Manners' "Present-Giving" pamphlet. Send $1.50, plus a long self-addressed stamped envelope, to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions except through this column.