On the moveFrom trendy city bistros to conservative...

Inside Fashion

February 06, 1992|By Chicago TribuneKnight-Ridder News ServiceEdited by Catherine Cook

On the move

From trendy city bistros to conservative corporate boardrooms, denim shirts are showing up in unexpected places.

"Americans have a love affair with denim," says men's retailer Stephen Davis. "Historically, fashion trends have started at the top and filtered down to the masses, but denim rose out of the working class. As hard as the fashion industry may have tried to subdue or kill it, denim keeps cropping up."

Blue jeans trace their roots back to the 1850s (Levi Strauss, an enterprising young Bavarian immigrant, began supplying them to California gold miners). However, denim shirts are a 20th century phenomenon that debuted in 1959.

Today, things have gotten a bit more complicated as denim shirt manufacturers offer as many options as automobile makers with tab collars, long-pointed collars and button-down collars, and a whole range of weights and colors.

Here are a few guidelines to help pull together new looks with them.

*Office: Team up a finely woven, lightweight denim shirt with a navy blue suit and tie -- the larger the pattern of the tie, the better.

*After-five: Sport jacket, charcoal pants. Button up the denim shirt all the way, but leave off the tie.

*Southwest: Denim shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, silver-tipped belt.

*Country: Denim shirt (unbuttoned) over turtleneck, jeans, penny loafers, braided belt.

*To mix or not to mix: If you are wearing all one tone, it looks too much like a jumpsuit -- instead, with a dark denim shirt wear light jeans, or vice versa.

The number of people who actually buy designer clothing is low. How many people, after all, can afford to spend $1,000 on a jacket? We're talking wool crepe here, not butter-soft leather.

Yet we must keep up with the fashion movers and shakers, because in the end, they influence what we wear. Yes, it's the old "trickle-down fashion theory." (But given the influence of street style on high style, maybe we should call it the "trickle around theory.")

In any case, reported here are the results of a national fashion editor survey. Sixty-eight fashion editors were asked to list the designers who they believe have the most influence on what American women wear. It is because of these designing ladies and gentlemen that you and your neighbors can be spotted in items such as catsuits and man-tailored jackets and pants.

Here are the names to be reckoned with in order of influence: Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Louis Dell'Olio, Bill Blass, Yves Saint Laurent and Gianni Versace.

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