Putting women first


April 11, 1999|By A. M. CHAPLIN | A. M. CHAPLIN,SUN STAFF

I can't afford designer clothing, and so what. The fact is, I'd be pretty uncomfortable wearing most designers' visions, even if they didn't send my plastic into meltdown.

If I put on one of those gorgeous gowns by Galliano, for example, I'd look like a kitchen chair drowning in a fancy slipcover. If I were dressed in St. Laurent, I'd have to move to Paris so my Euro-chic clothes could feel at home. And if I were compelled to wear Gucci's sexy hippie looks, I'd contemplate suicide the way I did back in the '70s when I had to stuff my thighs into bell-bottoms.

Donna Karan's clothes, now -- that's a different story. They are wonderful to look at, but they also look as though regular women might feel at home in them. Karan's clothes always had that woman-friendly look to them, but never more than now that she has added Benedetta Barzini to her model lineup.

Barzini (left) is the one with the graying hair and the lived-in face. She looks like a real person, and she is: an Italian journalist in her 50s with four children. She met Karan some years ago on an interview; the two hit it off, and Barzini has been part of two shows and some ad campaigns since then.

What Barzini's presence in these ads suggests, says a Karan spokeswoman, is what Karan intends: "It's the woman that's first, not the clothes."

What I say is, that's a vision all women can afford to invest in.

It's a lifestyle brand, and a pocketbook

The fashion press is full of strange terms that sound like English but are really Fashionish. "Bridge," for example, is always a metaphor and never a structure, and refers to clothing lines that cross the divide between designer and more plebeian collections. "Beauty" refers not to the magical gift of genetics but to the sometimes ugly industry of makeup.

Another Fashionish term that has been turning up a lot of late is "lifestyle brand." This seems to mean a brand that puts not just clothes on your back, but also shoes on your feet, earrings in your ears -- and maybe even a song in your heart.

Thus when a clothing brand like BCBG adds pocketbooks to its lineup, it is turning into a lifestyle brand. Translated into plain English, this is a good thing, because for years BCBG clothes have delivered more fashion than you'd expect for their price.

The bags run about $150-$250 and should be available in late April at BCBG Max Azria in Georgetown.

Oil of Olay does makeup

Oil of Olay, which has been making skin treatment products since the '40s, is now going into makeup.

We're not talking a couple of lip glosses here, but the full monty, from eight shades of foundation to 24 nail-polish colors and 38 lipsticks. The line doesn't have edgy colors or foundation and powder for women of color with darker complexions, but two darker shades will be added this summer, a spokeswoman said.

The products will be available by May in drugstores, supermarkets and mass merchandisers. Prices range from $3.85 for the nail polish or eye shadow, through $7 for the concealer or eyeliner, to $11.25 for the foundation or blush..

In a Havana mood

Every now and again you run into an item that has the mark of the Zeitgeist on it. No, not a nice big Z, but a look that is just right for the times.

My nomination for April's Zeitgeist item is the guayabera, that pin-tucked tropical shirt that has gone so far out that it's time for it to be in again. Besides, the item appears in the APC catalog, the arbiter elegantiarum for maximally hip minimalists, where it is called a South American folk shirt.

I was told that APC's clothing designer and music producer, Jean Touitou, was inspired to add the shirt to his collection when he went to Cuba to put together the double-disc CD "Havana Mood." It seems that everyone's in a Havana mood, not just the Birds.

The shirt comes in light blue or white, costs $65 and is available from the Web site www.apc.fr. The CD can be ordered from the same place for $25.

Pub Date: 04/11/99

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