Knit pickers have a lot to choose from this season

November 18, 1993|By Lisa Lytle | Lisa Lytle,Orange County Register

Beyond the Sloane Ranger twinset, the beatnik turtleneck and the grandfather's cardigan is a new generation of modern knit clothes that move, give and travel with new style.

For fall, the knit hits are knit wits -- clever variations on well-loved classics. Often, they become bigger, longer or shorter.

A lightweight cardigan is elongated to become a sweeping collarless calf-length coat. Sometimes it's belted to look like a bathrobe. A vest gets so long it resembles a sleeveless coat. A pullover goes in two directions: bulkier and longer or more snug and very short, as though it shrank in the washer.

In their fall collections, designers in Milan and Paris never seemed to run out of ways to make old-time favorites fresh.

Gianni Versace proved that sweaters can be sensuous. He showed long figure-hugging striped or solid tube dresses that looked like clingy sweaters stretched down to the calves, paired with patterned hosiery and calf-high boots. Even when his thigh-length thick pullovers were roomy, they were still sexy with only textured hosiery underneath and knee-high boots.

In his Emporio collection, Giorgio Armani favored lightweight, lean, long-sleeved striped turtleneck tops mixed with bulkier sweaters and knit caps.

Valentino mixed different knits on the same top, using argyle from the waist up and cable knit from the waist to the hips.

Christian Lacroix paired a big sweater, albeit a fitted one, over a patterned sheer skirt.

Claude Montana played it monochromatic, layering a lemon wool melton shawl-collared swing coat over a rusty lemon cowl-necked ribbed top and short skirt.

"You can put a double-knit ankle-length coat over a ribbed sweater dress. You can mix a fine-gauge turtleneck with wide, full knit pants and add a long ribbed vest," says Lisa Cervantes, vice president for Tse Cashmere in Santa Ana, Calif.

She also recommends using neutral colors such as charcoal, deep brown, camel and, of course, black. They can continue to be a part of the wardrobe long after a trend has come and gone.

No matter how fads turn, Irvine-based St. John designer Marie Gray and her daughter Kelly, who models in St. John ads, travel with knits.

For them, the appeal is that knit clothes hardly need pressing and retain their shape even after being squashed in the suitcase.

But the knits a mother picks for a business trip are different from her daughter's. Where Marie might bring black straight-leg pants, Kelly might bring leggings. Marie's short skirt might be 22 inches. Kelly's inevitably will be shorter.

Knits not only work for day but also are elegant for evening. Many designers have shown long body-skimming black knit sheaths that keep the body warm on a cool fall night. But a word of caution: Knit and spandex blend dresses are as unforgiving as they are resilient -- they camouflage nothing.

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