Donna Karan's new underwear does the job gracefully

November 19, 1992|By Bernadine Morris | Bernadine Morris,N.Y. Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Bras, which were erroneously reported burned during the women's liberation movement of the 1960s, are in the fashion news again. They are increasingly designed to serve more than a supporting role -- they are meant to be seen. Under suit jackets, for example, they are taking the place of blouses or sweaters.

Donna Karan is one designer who is keenly aware of the development. At 44, she is old enough to have participated in the imaginary bra burnings, but actually she was never tempted. Like many in her generation, she simply never wore one.

But about a year ago, she began to focus on underwear.

"Clothes were getting lighter and thinner, but the question was, 'What woman is going to expose herself?' " she asked. "No women I knew, and I certainly don't feel they should. It's one thing on the runway when you exaggerate to make your point. But I don't believe women should let everything hang out."

Thinking about bras led Ms. Karan to the larger problem of underwear in general. She became obsessed by underpants.

"None of them seemed to be cut full enough in back," she said. "Every one I tried seemed to ride up."

She had some strong feelings about the things worn next to the skin. Besides feeling good, they should improve the look of the body.

"Not girdles," she said. "I didn't want to go that far."

She designed panties that gave the stomach control she wanted without in any way resembling a girdle. She brought up the waistline and cut away the sides.

She then developed a wire for a bra that wouldn't distort the body or give it an unnatural look. It simply gave the necessary support.

She made sure the bras weren't covered with a lot of decorative material, but looked spare and functional.

"I don't really believe you can feel comfortable in your clothes unless you are comfortably dressed underneath," she explained. "And when it is all assembled properly, you have the illusion of clothes that look soft and revealing, but actually are no such thing."

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