Women who want to be not one but two steps ahead of the fashion crowd may want to turn their attention to pants and, even more specifically, to pantsuits. "It's the quiet trend, the sleeper of the season," says Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction for Bloomingdale's, of the return of both a look and a word that haven't been terribly au courant for years.
Pants have not been in absentia, of course, but in recent seasons they've relinquished the fashion spotlight to short skirts, leggings and pants so narrow they almost resemble tights.
What's new is the matched jacket and trousers; what's newer is wearing the suit in unexpected ways -- juxtaposing tweed with a sheer or metallic top, for example, therefore feminizing tailored masculinity with a touch of sensuality.
@ Shirts, tank tops and bodysuits as sheer as the filmiest stockings are suddenly popular. Woven with Lycra or nylon yarns, they cling, stretch and even give some support.
Daring women are wearing these transparent coverings over nothing (usually shielded by a jacket), while those who are more modest put theirs over bras pretty enough to show off. Either way, the look is unquestionably sexy, fitting right in with the current mode of lingerie dressing.
In Paris, Christian Lacroix showed sheer tops under luxurious daytime suits. In New York, designer Isaac Mizrahi did the same. This is transparent dressing at a top price. One lingerie company, Only Hearts, however, is selling sheer black tanks and long-sleeved tops at Henri Bendel for less than $30.
"They're the modern shell," says the sportswear designer Randolph Duke. This summer, his company has been deluged with orders for these see-through silk and nylon tops in black. They will sell for about $80 at Bloomingdale's in August.