Open Season Recycle those doilies: Hippie-era crochet returns as anti-fashion grunge

January 28, 1993|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Staff Writer

The sophisticated baby boomer may be surprised to see the new turn crochet has taken, especially if she remembers trucking along in a long, droopy vest of her own manufacture in the '60s.

Crochet is yet another element of flower-child style that has been dusted off for 1993. Designers have taken it up from the young and hip, who have been wearing the tatty stuff as an anti-fashion statement for some years.

As the youth of the '60s and '70s grew out of hip-huggers and into career clothes, hippie togs were banished to thrift shop bins, where they moldered. Wide macrame hip belts, jackets pieced from granny afghans, and loopy crochet vests and ponchos worked by craftsy types were a staple at low-end second-hand stores.

It took a generation that embraces ratty hair, tattoos and combat boots to see the hidden charm in '70s castoffs. These clothes could be had for pennies and had the added appeal of being totally abhorrent to mainstream tastes.

Art school and club kids mixed and mismatched clothes into the grunge style. Young women pulled holey crochet sweaters and vests over loose, long dresses and managed to look romantic in a quirky sort of way. Designers noticed.

At the New York spring collections, the fashion chain that links street and runway was complete -- crochet and macrame were everywhere.

The successful crop of young American designers who were too young to wear the stuff the last time around copy-catted earlier styles.

Mark Jacobs, for Perry Ellis, had white vests that looked as if they were cut from granny's tablecloth, and his tight little shrugs could have had a previous life as doilies.

Anna Sui showed lots of crochet in black and acid colors -- very open, very revealing -- with large triangle shawls draped on models, enhancing the peekaboo effect. And Todd Oldham's black crochet and fishnet tops and bottoms took the homey craft far beyond grandma's wildest dreams.

The older establishment treated crochet with more restraint -- going for texture rather than tease -- although foundation garments were noticeably absent on the runways.

Donna Karan's mid-thigh, sheer tank sweater was shown over wide pants and under a long easy jacket. Ms. Karan, whose own penchant for bra-lessness is well known, will surely be able to supply modest clients with suitable underpinnings.

Calvin Klein's cobwebby knits in neutral natural colors also revealed much of the models, but their simple shapes and long sleeves could accommodate underwear easily.

Some designers treated the crochet tank as this year's answer to the bustier. At Anne Klein, Louis Dell'Olio put a black midriff-baring camisole under a ivory jacket and easy trousers. It was the lady-like version of his vampy black crochet sheath.

Women who are not quite ready to abandon their tailoring for this frilly fabrication can put themselves into the fashion loop with accessories. This winter's beret will be replaced by the crochet cap come spring. Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein et al. showed coordinating little caps with their collections.

In its special accessories supplement, Women's Wear Daily touts crochet and macrame in string and straw as summer's "new" weaves.

Macrame belts and bags and crochet gloves and hats are coming to a store near you -- a fresh and airy touch for spring. Let's just hope this retro trend stops short of those macrame plant hangers.

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