Miss Manners: Should we have told him his coat had a large hole?

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Dear Miss Manners: One night, my wife and I were at a gala for our city’s ballet. Most people were dressed well — to the nines and beyond.

Then we saw one man — evidently quite prosperous, from the looks of his wife and friends — who was wearing a coat with a huge hole chewed in the back. And I mean several inches wide, through multiple layers of fabric.

We said nothing, not wanting to embarrass him, but in retrospect, is there any action we could or should have taken?

Had you brought sewing supplies to the ballet gala? If not, how would pointing it out be a help? And would the gentleman have even wanted such help?

Miss Manners once refrained from telling a young celebrity that her backless dress revealed the back of her brassiere because it would not have been fixable at the time. Not long after, a fashion magazine ran a picture of the dress, visible brassiere and all, describing it as the daring creation of a famous designer.

So she has resolved not to make fashion assumptions in the era of expensively torn jeans.

Dear Miss Manners: I frequent thrift stores and recently found a set of gorgeous ceramic plates: They are a solid color with an intricate raised design. They were a very good price, and I immediately bought them.

When I came home and looked them up, I discovered that they were sold as “charger plates.” I don’t know what to do with these.

I am familiar with the large metal plates that were used as chargers for fancy dinners in my youth, but I was under the impression that these were to be removed from the table prior to serving. When looking up how to use these chargers, I’m seeing people say that they should be left on the table as the top dish is replaced after each course. I want to do these lovely plates justice.

Chargers, also known as place plates, serve as the under-liners for the soup or another first course, after which both plates are removed from the right as the dinner plate is set from the left. This is a tricky maneuver, as the server has to go in both directions without leaning on the diner.

These plates can be ceramic as well as metal. But Miss Manners hopes that the design is not so raised as to make the soup plate wobble.

Dear Miss Manners: My boyfriend wants to take me on a date that involves dressing to the nines. He would like to see me in a super fluffy ballgown, which is a request that I am willing to oblige if I can find the right dress.

The problem is that every time I browse this style, all I see is “teenage prom,” and I am twice that age. Is there a way to wear a ballgown in my 30s without looking like I am trying to relive my teenage years?

Could it be floaty instead of fluffy? Like chiffon or organza?

This is not really Miss Manners’ department. But she can suggest something tactical: a joint shopping expedition with your beau. That way, he gets to chime in — or agree to anything because he is worn out.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.



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