Maillots: Chameleons Of Fashion

May 09, 1991|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- A lot of women think maillots are one of fashion's better inventions. They're right. These simple one-piece coverings serve all sorts of purposes, especially in summer.

A tank-top maillot is the ideal bathing suit or workout costume. It's comfortable, durable and functional. Because it's woven with stretch fibers it not only fits over a variety of shapes, it also gives a nice, slightly firm molding to the body.

But a maillot's fashion life is much more varied. It can be the base for every kind of dressing, replacing underwear, blouses, even evening tops. Like a chameleon, a maillot can look great with the most casual or most elegant of clothing.

It all depends on what's layered over it, which can range from an L. L. Bean denim shirt and jeans to an Oscar de la Renta beaded jacket and satin skirt.

Maillots are moderately priced and come in lots of colors. The Co-op Barneys New York has them in hues like hot pink, orange and lime, as well as black and white, for $28. On Wednesday the Gap stores will stock tank-top maillots in warm summer shades, with front-panel lining, for $34.50. The Banana Republic's version, also front-lined, is $43.

Once you get in the habit of using a maillot as a fashion base, you're a step toward what may be one of next fall's most popular styles: a bodysuit stretching from turtleneck to toes. Designers are suggesting that it too can be worn under everything -- though not, of course, for swimming.

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