Forget for the moment about hem lengths. The big news for next fall is skirts that swing.
At Valentino, flat box pleats whip into motion when the wearer moves. Emanuel Ungaro favors delicate crystal pleats all around that flutter gently beneath fitted body lines.
And Yves Saint Laurent likes a modest flare to the skirt beneath his curving waistlines.
In their early "pre-fall" collections, these major European designers have not attempted to rock the fashion establishment. The vast majority of styles stop above the knees, with only an occasional venture to calf length or below. It is not an approach that wins disfavor from the retailers ordering the collections, which were shown last week.
"Hemlines for this fall will be predominately short," said Ernest Marx, president of Saks Jandel in Washington. "Of course, there are going to be people who want something new and will dabble with longer styles, but on balance, the short skirts are younger and sexier, and sex sells today. You have to be young for the long clothes to look good."
Next month, these same designers will show their major fall collections in Paris in the courtyard of the Louvre. That will be the time for major silhouette changes and dramatic colors.
Still, it is from these more modest presentations, without fanfare, in company showrooms, that stores will order from 30 percent to 50 percent of their fall merchandise.
When the styles being ordered now are available in the stores in June, customers will find much that is comforting.
Women will find plenty of reassuringly short clothes on the racks. And the small percentage of longer styles will allow women who want to see how they look in long clothes a chance to test the waters.