N.Y. springs ahead, as designers polish images from past Retro-Active

November 10, 1994|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Sun Fashion Editor

Next spring, we will again be setting the clocks forward, but looking back in fashion. With a few exceptions, American designers who showed their 1995 collections in New York last week were caught up in the styles of the '30s, '40s and '50s with some '70s thrown in for laughs.

Futurists predicted that, by the year 2000, our clothes will be climatically and ergonomically efficient, like Star Trek unitards, perhaps. However, as we approach the millennium, fashion is clutching its Kelly bags, digging in its high heels and refusing to cross over.

What happened? Fashion happened, the stuff of let's pretend. Modern women have had comfort in the shape of relaxed fit, pull-on pants and one-T-shirt-hides-all. They may be ready to work at glamour and designers are springing for it next season.

The generation that grew up believing natural is good and artificial is bad will have a rude fashion awakening. Artifice and illusion, the ways of Hollywood, are the new interests.

We've had hints of these impending changes. Women have stood in line to buy the cleavage promised by a Wonderbra. Lingerie departments are stocking waist cinchers, tummy slimmers and fanny slings.

Fashion is changing right down to its very foundations and on New York runways, corsetry has achieved chic status. The Ellen Tracy Line includes sheer, long-line bras. Richard Tyler accents evening silks with satin panels and seams reminiscent of your grandma's all-in-one combination. An underwired bustier and matching sweater is considered a set at Bill Blass.

Here, then, are some keys to the changing shape of fashion:

The fit

Nowhere to hide. The hourglass figure dominates. That means jackets that hug the waist and tailoring and seams that hug curves front and back. It's strict construction, with a strong shoulder, that permits no slouching. Dresses, too, are contoured and even simple shifts have built-in curves.

The fabrics

All shine and polish. Satin is everywhere and is used in everything from suits to jeans. Even such natural fabrics as cotton and linen are chemically treated and varnished to make them appear man-made. There are thunderbolts of gold and silver lame and lots of Lurex. Remember those slimy Qiana disco shirts in the '70s? You get the picture.

The patterns

Flora and fauna. Florals for next spring are slipcover cabbage rose-size, unlike the little prints of last year. Snakes and reptiles will be summer's animal print, all in keeping with slithery thinking. Oh, and lots of polka dots in between.

The length

At the knee. Designers get around dowdiness by cutting the longer skirts butt-hugging tight and slashing them high.

The face

Very done. There's no pretense of natural good looks. Eyes are darkly smudged, lips drip red gloss and hair is combed and controlled.

The colors

Pink and more pink; hot for the vamps and baby pale for nice girls. There was also a sweet selection of luncheon mint pastels in winter greens and buttermint. Glossy siren red is the hot accessory color with red patent heels, belts and bags being played as a new neutral. Black is the new navy.

The extras

Think retro. Snoods and veils for the hair. Thin little belts on everything. Little white gloves. Clutch purses and boxy bags. High heels always and with everything. Barrettes, especially if they're in rhinestones. Patent leather everything.

The inspirations

Marlene Dietrich tailored and gowned. Jessica Rabbit in alluring slink. Marilyn Monroe in a billowing halter dress. Doris Day in a poodle skirt and Peter Pan collar. Audrey Hepburn in pink and capri pants.

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