Cowboy coutureConsistently, the European fashion designers...

Inside Fashion

November 14, 1991|By Los Angeles Daily NewsBoston GlobeNew York Times News ServiceEdited by Catherine Cook

Cowboy couture

Consistently, the European fashion designers seem to be the ones who forge the trends that American designers interpret into more wearable versions of clothing.

But many of the most successful designers have ignored Europe and started looking for inspiration from honest-to-goodness Americans, the hard-working kind.

So perhaps it's no fluke that New York designer Donna Karan's latest spring sportswear collection, DKNY, looks like something derived from a California cattle ranch that hired Thelma and Louise.

Full of black cowboy boots paired with jeans and denim shirts cut into vests, the DKNY spring collection includes Valley Girl basics like cowboy boots, denim bib-overall shorts, bustiers and faded blue denim jeans shredded and ripped (for $85!!).

The great interpreter Karan has even included a T-shirt mocking the hottest California craze, Harley-Davidson wear, specifically the bald eagle motif. If the whole look isn't already in your closet, it will start appearing in better department stores by about February.

Nautical motifs are typical spring fare, but Ralph Lauren has a better reason than other designers to take the nautical theme as his spring inspiration. The America-3 racing syndicate will wear Lauren-designed sailing uniforms as they compete to defend the America's Cup early next year.

So in his spring preview last week, Mr. Lauren expanded on the usual brass-button pea-jacket idea. He came up with red leather, double-breasted, brass-buttoned crop jackets, blazer dresses with crests on the upper sleeve, and halter sailor dresses in the new spring mid-calf length.

The nautical mood included wide-legged pantsuits, dresses of all lengths, including sailor-collared fit-and-flare shapes, jackets and leather anoraks (a couple of which are collector's items, with "America's Cup" written across the back). He accessorized his ensembles with brass dog-tag necklaces, gold rope belts and fasteners that looked like the hardware you find on yachts and foul-weather gear.

A tattoo is no longer taboo, at least in fashion circles. At the recent spring showings it was hard to miss the little tattoos decorating the ankles of several top models, and a few designers made a point of tattoos in their collections.

"I use them to emphasize bareness," Anna Sui said, explaining why a small inky butterfly showed up on the knee of a model wearing a short skirt, while a rose peeked over the low-slung back of a pair of hip huggers. In Paris last month, much of the Comme de Garcons collection was accompanied by what appeared to be drawn-on necklaces and bracelets.

Some stylish tattoos, like the small rose on the inside of the model Christy Turlington's ankle, are permanent. But the designers -- and many young fashion followers -- use temporary alcohol-based transfers.

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