NEW YORK -- Women in the 1990s may be searching for quiet chic, but the desire for shimmer and sparkle cannot be entirely suppressed.
Those who would not wear expensive jewelry around the neck or wrist think nothing of wearing today's glittering, gem-studded clothes. But these are not the galactic dresses of old Hollywood.
Contemporary designers go beyond sequins and rhinestones to marry the techniques of jewelry-making to simple dress shapes.
The jewel-like effects include shoulder straps of suede threaded through big chunks of Austrian crystal, faux-pearl straps or pearl-studded knits, and big 60s-style Lucite bangles, which crisscross the back, line the bare midriff or dangle around the waist as a belt.
The jewelry dress has important advantages, not the least that it is pre-accessorized. Anyone who wants to steal your jewelry will have to take the clothes right off your back.
Many designers work jewelry themes into their clothing, from Karl Lagerfeld and Bill Blass, who have done pearl-backed dresses in recent seasons, to Albert Nipon and James Tarantino, who put sculptured metal straps on simple black dresses.