Paris flirts with the past Designers romp through fashion history with some teasing twists

October 29, 1992|By Marylou Luther | Marylou Luther,Contributing Writer

PARIS — Tweed jackets worn with men's briefs at Chanel. The hair as dress at Jean Paul Gaultier. Zulu-sized Afros and dreamy flower children at Chloe. Golden teardrops at Yohji Yamamoto. Pleated and twisted skirts that bob and pulsate like wearable Slinkies at Issey Miyake. Blouses of black spiderwebs and dresses of gray cobwebs at Romeo Gigli.

The images are memorable, but where, you may ask, are the clothes?

The messages of Paris fashion for spring 1993 -- chaos, rebellion, change, escape -- are loud and clear. It's the clothes that need some unscrambling.

If the idea of a jacket jockeying above men's underwear doesn't thrill you, how about a see-through black chiffon skirt over lace thong undies strewn with flowers? Or a bra to match your favorite $1,000 blazer? Or pants worn upside down as a skirt? Sound preposterous? Read on.

CLOTHES WITH A PAST: While no one seems quite sure where fashion's avant-garde is going, there's a lot of evidence of where it's been: To the late '60s and early '70s for bell-bottoms, love beads, cropped tops, flower children and Superfly platforms, to the '50s for the full, calf-length skirts Annette Funicello and Sandra Dee wore with their off-the-shoulder blouses, to the late '20s and early '30s when women wore ivory silk crepe de chine chemise dresses and carried parasols and smelling salts.

The look-backs that are most puzzling are the many dresses and skirts with trains. From Yamamoto's tribal dresses that leave at least four yards of fabric trailing in their wake to Gigli's black Spider Woman gown with not one but two trains, fashion's rear-guard action is a train of thought that links the dressed to the past -- the immediate past.

THE NEW WOMAN: You know those "Uh-Huh" girls from the Pepsi commercial? They're now the uh-uh girls from yesterday. The emerging woman from those Paris collections is as feminine, and sometimes even as fragile and innocent, as her predecessors were strong and aggressive. She wears sweet long white cotton damask and eyelet dresses with cutwork and faggoting at Chloe and Chanel. She covers her long, full linen skirts with hand-painted aprons at Lacroix.

The apron is perhaps the most symbolic item of the season, appearing in almost every collection, usually over pants, and signifying the kinder, gentler woman from the tied-to-her-apron-strings generation.

Fashion's newly-aproned darling is, in fact, less feminist, more feminine. Even avant garde designers such as Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela put their women in pants wrapped with aprons waiters wear.

The new woman is also more serene, less frantically sexy. Claude Montana portrays her in a brilliant collection of soft, creamy silk crepe pants with self-belted trench jackets in the same fluid cut. Or sheer, sleeveless tops of khaki jersey over flowing jersey pajamas.

SHEER ILLUSION: In the continuing saga of see-through, the news for spring is that the sheerness has traveled from tops to bottoms. Karl Lagerfeld's see-through skirts from his signature collection last March and his transparent chiffon pants from Chanel haute couture in July began as a way to keep mini-lovers happy by giving them a way to show their legs in long skirts or pants. They set the stage for a new look at transparency, and have triggered an explosion of such fabrics as chiffon, georgette and organza.

Unlike his first see-throughs for Chanel that posed mousseline pants over thigh-high stockings, Lagerfeld's new chiffon pants are shown over black bodysuits in his collection for Chloe (his first for that company in 9 years) and over nothing but legs with long tops or skirts in his signature collection.

While the French designers veil the legs in one layer of chiffon, America's Oscar de la Renta makes his chiffon pants three layers deep, thereby providing an opacity many women will probably prefer. The New York designer, who says he will decide later this week if he will take over the haute couture reins at PierreBalmain, offers his no-show chiffons with matching wool crepe jackets in shades of yellow and green.

Rome's Valentino gives see-through a ladylike touch by printing a chiffon jumpsuit in an elephant motif and layering it over a knee-length jumpsuit in a zebra print, or by veiling a satin bra with an openwork tunic of beaded coral and showing them with full pleated pants.

BARING IT: The midriff replaces the legs as the center of erotica as cropped tops and bras fight it out for supremacy above the waist. Even the most classic designers such as Hanae Mori and Christian Dior show bras as the new blouse. A typical Mori outfit combines black bra with black and white striped pajamas and matching top. The Dior look by Gianfranco Ferre merges the bra with orange jodhpurs and riding jacket.

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