Julie Duroche designs for a wide range of ages and tastes

THE LIFE OF THE PARTY

December 12, 1991|By Jean Patteson | Jean Patteson,Orlando Sentinel

It's quite a display: short, pouffy party dresses stiff with taffeta and netting; long, wispy evening gowns adrift in chiffon and lace; dazzling cocktail suits shimmering with sequins.

All this season's hottest trends, all in one showroom -- that of After Five, manufacturer of the moderately priced ($100-$400), special-occasion fashions that are a staple in better department and specialty stores.

Most designers include a few party outfits with each of their sportswear or career-wear collections. But After Five's chief designer, Julie Duroche, does nothing but party clothes. And she does them for an audience whose ages and tastes vary widely -- from prom queens to mothers-of-the-bride, hip club hoppers to charity-ball stalwarts.

Her aim each season is to design something for everyone and every occasion -- in styles that reflect all the latest trends.

"I grasp the essence of what's being projected on the runways and in the magazines. Then I formulate the look at an affordable level," said Ms. Duroche, 29, a graduate of Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, who interned with designer

Per Spook in Paris before joining After Five six years ago.

Fans of the Miss America Pageant will be familiar with Ms. Duroche's colorful, dramatic designs, which the contestants wore during the extravaganza in 1988, '89 and '90.

"It's fun designing for a specific person and a specific event. Eventually, that's what I'd like to do -- design just for specific stars."

In the meantime, Ms. Duroche is making a name for herself designing for Everywoman -- for whom she has this word of advice:

"Be daring. Most people don't dare -- and to really enjoy party clothes, you've got to dare."

Ms. Duroche's current best-selling designs are a primer on what's hot for the '91 holiday season. The following trends are in the stores now -- under Duroche's label, and those of many other designers, too:

*Fit-and-flare shapes. The bodices are fitted (Ms. Duroche favors clingy, leotard-style tops or lace- and jewel-encrusted bustiers), but the skirts are full.

*Fifties styling -- but with shorter skirts (which are still far outselling long ones).

*Belts -- to further accentuate trim waistlines. "Belts are the new accessory," Ms. Duroche said.

*Embroidered boleros or stoles. For modesty's sake, or to ward off air-conditioning drafts.

*Slip dresses. In black lace, they're this season's version of the staple little black dress. The newest styles have a fitted bodice and soft ballerina skirt. (Fishnet stockings enhance the ballerina look.)

*Brilliantly beaded or sequined dresses. They're this season's glitzy alternative to the little black dress.

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