Skirt lengths: the long and short of it

April 08, 1992|By Trish Donnally | Trish Donnally,San Francisco Chronicle

It's a long story.

First, a fashion flashback to last month. At that time, Bill Blass said, "Very long only looks good on young, skinny kids. Otherwise, it's aging."

On Monday, as a week's worth of fall fashion shows began on Seventh Avenue in New York, Mr. Blass showed more long than short skirts. "I'm getting sick of the miniskirt, so sick of the short skirt," he said.

In fairness to Mr. Blass, his long skirts hit only an inch or two below the knees, but they were skinny and most often knit.

Joseph Abboud, who began by designing menswear, presented one of the best collections of the day. He also showed skirts that hit two inches or so below the knees. Like most designers, he sprinkled in short lengths, too.

Mr. Abboud's fabrics -- including cashmere, baby alpaca and silk taffeta -- were sumptuous. His silhouettes had volume, such as a generously cut charcoal, wool-tweed boucle coat that grazed the models' ankles. His colors were earthy, like shades you'd see in the Tuscany countryside.

For the most part, Mr. Abboud's evening wear wasn't up to the standard he set with his day wear, but one outfit was terribly urbane. It included a ruby iridescent, silk taffeta down vest worn with a ruby-Lurex body suit and garnet-mesh, lame-chiffon pants. The vest gave it a tomboy edge.

An old New York street lamp with a red bulb, a black curtain and a table and chairs with chipped black paint provided the background for Betsey Johnson's "Femme Fatale" show yesterday afternoon. Fishnet stockings and black garters, underwire bras that exposed the bosom and a model with a tattoo on her back set the tone.

But this was just Ms. Johnson having some raunchy fun.

The more important message was the strong retro statement she made. Using muddy colors and small florals, stripes and plaids, Ms. Johnson showed long, fishtail, V-neck, fluid, drippy, drapey dresses similar to those you find in vintage stores.

"Anything old, retro-y and slinky are our best sellers. It's totally taken over our Lycra," said Ms. Johnson.

The star of the show was Bjork, lead singer of the Sugar Cubes, the rock band from Iceland. Looking more like a street urchin from a Charles Dickens novel than a lady of the night, she strolled down the runway singing the words, "This wasn't supposed to happen" from the song "Hit."

Bjork wore a pea green, ankle-length dress, pea green snood, fingerless gloves and booties. She carried a mesh sack of potatoes and pretended that a potato with a black wire attached was her microphone.

Gordon Henderson's collection had a '40s retro feel, too. Most of his skirts and dresses hit right at the knee or longer. Jackets had square shoulders and inverted back pleats. Pants were cuffed, and shoes were covered with spats.

Mr. Henderson's take on the dandy look was often downright seductive. Picture a woman in a white organza blouse topped by a fit-and-flare bustier dress. Add a saucy beret, and voila, a nice masculine-feminine mix.

Twin sets were recurring in Mr. Henderson's collection, as in that of Mr. Blass. Mr. Henderson showed them in argyle or pony prints. Mr. Blass showed them in ruby or emerald combos, or black with shiny raffia trim.

Possibly the newest look in Mr.Blass' collection was a little black jersey overall dress that had rhinestones where you'd expect rivets.

Carolina Herrera showed a collection of pristine, ladylike clothes. Her establishment clientele will love her honeycomb-tweed suits and her black velvet-trimmed, mid-calf, princess-style dress.

The orange-satin jacket with tiger-striped embroidery and a tiger-sequined skirt slit to the hip would have been better edited out. Her giraffe-embroidered pants with a brown-velvet blouse were good-looking, though.

Skirts are getting slit and slashed as designers try to make long lengths look new. Ms. Herrera slit hers up side seams.

Mr. Blass carried the concept further, attaching what looked like black-chiffon hankies to fly from long or short black-velvet dresses. A great new look? Not.

As the crowd of buyers, fashion reporters and photographers left Ms. Herrera's showroom and boarded the elevator, the elevator operator asked, "What's going on in there, and why is everyone in black? Is it a funeral?"

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