Hemline controversy settles down

April 03, 1991|By Bernadine Morris | Bernadine Morris,N.Y. Times News Service

It seems probable that, for the first time in recent fashion history, the transition in skirt lengths will be peaceful, orderly and nontraumatic.

Oh, some soul-searching is inevitable as women decide whether to bare or cover their knees and by how much. But the decisions will be their own, not imposed, since designers offer every

possible hemline choice in their fall collections.

In Paris, where decisions about the length of skirts and other sobering fashion questions are inevitably made, these were the major developments in the showings last month:

* Even the shortest (mid-thigh) skirts were somewhat longer than those in the spring collections and too-short seemed suddenly demode.

* There was little agreement on how long is long, with every variant from just below the knee to just above the ankle represented. A majority of designers offered a choice of lengths, with the shorter styles outnumbering the longer ones in most collections.

* A similar range of lengths was offered in London and Milan before the Paris showings. The question looms as to what tack American designers will take.

The parameters of the issue were set in Paris by two designers whose collections were widely acclaimed. Claude Montana's stark modernism, hailed as the look of the future, required skirts that stopped well above the knees.

Yves Saint Laurent, on the other hand, endorsed the downward trend, as in his couture collection in January. While he occasionally stopped hems a few inches shorter when the style seemed to require it, a majority of his skirts ended at or around the knee and many descended to midcalf.

A safe and sane approach to hemline change is widely viewed as an absolute necessity at a time when fashion business is slow, as it is now.

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