Ahead of the Curve Fashion: The hipbone is connected to just about everything in women's wear for spring. Hems go high/low, color s dazzle and comfort's built in.

November 09, 1995|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,SUN FASHION EDITOR

Stand up tall, put hands on hips and press. Fashion says that what you feel will be the focus of excitement next spring. If you pressed more flesh than hipbone, there is time to diet down. Designers who showed next season's collections in New York last week have their money riding on the hip and it is a liberating thought.

There wasn't a tight waistband or corset to be seen as pants and skirts dropped to the hipbone or below, hanging gently on that curve much the way a skirt slips easily with the loss of some extra pounds. Below the hip, anything goes.

Hemlines were hiked to minis or dropped to the ankle in softly flared or taut shapes. Anything hovering around the kneecap or the calf is now old and over.

The brightest idea for spring, however, is color. Donna Karan picked through the citrus groves for tart lemons, nectarines, limes. Ralph Lauren chose clear shades of blues, oranges and greens right out of the big Crayola box and filled in simple tank dresses without blurring any edges. Just to prove he's all for brights, Lauren wore all-black turtleneck and jeans as he walked his bows through a rainbow of models in bright column gowns. He knows how to make a point.

There was every other shade of the color wheel -- some dusted and powdered, like luncheon mint pastels, while other colors were frosted with a sugary sheen, like yummy fashion flakes. Calvin Klein, the emperor of neutrals, has invented a new one. Many of the emperor's new clothes were shown in Nude -- a pinky, beigy, tender shade that looked sensuous in jersey -- but he also showed lots of rich coral and melon and icy blues and citrines.

With the Top Three labels in fashion weighing in for color, we may actually see it in the stores come spring. Retailers love color on the runway, but when it comes to dollars they tend to play it safe and order in black or neutrals. Designers may be forcing their hand by ignoring black for spring, although white is a strong contender.

As for shape, there is no one direction other than that it be clean. Designers are again floating ideas launched by the modernists of American sportswear. The shades of Halston and Claire McCardell would be pleased. Both designers, who worked decades apart, held to clothes that were confident reflections of the active American woman. McCardell invented shirtdresses, wrap coats and the use of homey fabrics. Halston reduced dressing to minimal shaping and texture so that women could get on with their lives without being encumbered by the frou-frou baggage of their European sisters.

If this is retro, let's have more of it. The industry has labeled this clean direction "relaxed chic" to separate the new fuss-free dressing from the "conservative chic" of strict construction, which we are experiencing now. It's not a complete turnaround, just a nod to the changing climate of summer, when comfort should prevail.

Clothes have been virtually stripped of trimmings, with subtle elegance suggested in the ease and casual way in which they wear and drape.

Jackets are cut with a natural curve, which is reiterated in topstitched and welted dressmaker seaming rather than severe tailoring techniques. The newest are cropped high at the waist or around the hipbone, although there are plenty of classic cardigans, blazers and shirtjackets for every figure. Even pants have been simplified to cigarette straight legs, capri tightness or an easy flare in the calf. Say goodbye for now to pleated, menswear pants. Except for a modified version in the Anne Klein line, the traditional trouser has disappeared from designer collections.

The dress is again challenging the suit for day-wear dominance -- the reason is a looser line and coordinating jacket or topper. It's the newer chemise instead of last year's slip and the interest is in the yokes, boat necklines and seaming that skims body curves. Those are the dresses inspired by the legendary ladies of fashion like Babe Paley. The babes will have to choose from a selection of tube dresses and jersey tanks that slithered down the runways.

In the bag of assorted treats that Fashion Week mixes together, here are trends to note, or not:

Patterns:

It's going to be a plaid spring and stripe summer and some designers mixed them up. Almost without exception, stripes are run horizontally to the body on long tank knit dresses, and we all know what that does to visual weight. Florals, when they bloom, are of the overblown tropical variety.

Knits:

Jerseys in matte and shiny liquid finishes are spring's seductive slip-ons. They are seen in polo shirt dresses, long wrapped skirts, tight body-suit tops, cropped tanks, fluid pants and evening gowns. Great on smooth bodies.

Fabrics:

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