Layering made easy

DRESSING DOWN

November 05, 1992|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Fashion is experiencing an attitude adjustment and American designers showing their spring collections here have definitely mellowed out. Perhaps it's a rebellion against the stress for success grind we live in, but the pinstripe power suit is gone, assertive shoulder pads have disappeared, and the starch has gone out of the classic white shirt.

Now the '70s are the moving influence. There may even be an air of Zen floating through designer workrooms. The times, they have loosened up.

Grunge -- The Look, is the latest buzz on Seventh Avenue even though it has been on the streets for some time. Grunge -- The Music, which inspired the clothes, came out of Seattle with groups such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and music fans Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis and Christian Francis Roth took Grunge to the designer level in their spring previews this week.

This is a forward move. To the uninitiated a Grunge trendy can be mistaken for a homeless waif with a bad haircut dressed in clean but mismatched, ill-fitting, out-of-date, wrinkled clothes donated by well-intentioned but color-blind church ladies.

Among the key style elements are plaid flannel shirts, thermal underwear worn as outerwear(Madonna missed this one), shorts worn over leggings, combat boots, sweaters that are too tight, long pants that are too short and stupid stocking caps.

The caps keep the poor waifs warm you see, the theory being that wearing stocking hats while in the throes of music will bring on hyperventilation, a desired effect on the club music scene.

Perry Ellis made a designer grab-bag of Grunge elements work well on his waifish models. Christian Francis Roth may have tired the look out by getting into the act himself with sock hat and guitar. Be warned, adults should not try this look at home alone.

THE POWER OF PANTS: Pants have never been stronger and more varied. Almost all designers chime in with some version of bell bottoms -- from clear-cut black hip-huggers at Nicole Miller to wild flower-trimmed floppies at Betsey Johnson. But pants next season will be the wardrobe anchor that jackets have been. Full and sheer, they ripple under tunics at Michael Kors. Straight and narrow, they smooth an Eastern tunic by Jennifer George. Hot, hip-hugged and short, they reveal the leg and belly under layers of stripes and plaids at Perry Ellis.

BARELY DRESSED: The spring dresses to notice are long, lean and unforgiving. The best of them bare the arms, or back, or bosom or all of the above. Among the show-stoppers here were a series of matte jersey columns with lace-up fronts or backs by Nicole Miller. The figures that can carry these knit slinks are the same ones that got away with the short little Lycra tank dresses, but that's no guaranteed guideline, because years have passed and stretch has more hold than a fluid jersey.

INVESTMENTS: How many ways can a vest be cut? There seems no end to the possibilities. Todd Oldham cuts them so short as to barely cover the bosom, or long in front and non-existent in back except for a leather thong. Bill Blass shows a tailored gray/white striped silk in front which turns into bare white lace in back caught with a pert bow.

Marc Jacobs shows granny doily crochet vests right out of a hippie commune. Michael Kors extends them into tunics to flow long and loose over full pants and under a short cardigan. The vest has replaced the dress in its infinity of altered states.

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: The bare midriff is the center of attention for spring. It can be as coy as a glimpse of skin revealed by movement of cropped jackets by Carolina Hererra or as blatant as a ripped-away gash that frames the navel in a skin-tight black knit dress by Marc Jacobs. The beautifully bared is clean and pure as Michael Kors shows it in a white jersey midriff top over slim black pants topped with a sleeveless tunic jacket.

When the body isn't bared it's seen through transparent gauzes, lace and organzas. Bill Blass showed sheer trousers under floating caftans which moved beautifully but did nothing to hide the anatomy. A lacy caviar-beaded dress by Randolph Duke showed all.

Added together, the elements of the spring styles add up to the trend-of-many-layers which has already emerged in Paris and Milan. Weightless fabrics make the look possible. Michael Kors put pants, a skirt, long vest, short jacket and cropped top on one model, and the look was light, soft and feminine.

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