In the end, designers show how good they are at being bad

Rips, short skirts reveal naughty side of women's fashion

Fashion Week

September 25, 2002|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - She's the type of girl with a penchant for bombshell red lipstick and skirts so short they tease the world with flashes of her behind.

She favors dresses that encase her heaving bosom in striking satin cups and never wakes up before noon, when she languorously slips into a silk kimono and reaches for her first martini and cigarette.

And she will steal your boyfriend.

Just before the Spring 2003 Fashion Week ended Monday, a decidedly different woman emerged on the runways from the ruffles- and pastel-loving girls of the earlier shows. This woman pouted for the cameras in plunging halter tops, hot pants the size of bandeau tops, and outfits cut, ripped or slashed to bare flesh, flesh, flesh.

The bad girls of spring finally had come out to play.

"You have to have attitude," said Patricia Field, the Sex and the City stylist whose line of clothing, House of Field, seemed devoted to the bad girl. "Otherwise, you're going to get run over."

David Dalrymple, who designs Field's line, trotted out models in fringed kimonos and slashed mini-dresses in thematically incongruous Popsicle hues such as lemon yellow, baby blue and sherbet pink. Their skirts and shorts were paired with exposed thongs and, at times, thigh-high boots. They wore bodysuits and teeny dresses bearing beaded tiger faces on their bottoms and stretchy Tupac Shakur shirts converted into bikinis.

To further his sexpot theme, Dalrymple - a popular choice for stars seeking music video togs - even got hip-hop bad girl Eve and "Lady Marmalade" alum Mya to walk his runway. With her hair teased up high, Mya strutted her stuff in a bright green and yellow bodysuit with a matching miniskirt cut so low her hips were exposed. Eve closed the show wearing a big blond wig and a one-shoulder gown in stretchy black lace.

The tiger motif proved popular with Kimora Lee Simmons as well. At her Baby Phat show - which drew both hip-hop and just plain hip glitterati from Wyclef Jean and Baltimore R&B sensation Mario to Vanessa Williams and Tyra Banks - Lee showed jumpsuits, jackets and halter tops with sequined tiger patterns. Even the elegant Carolina Herrera dabbled in the tiger theme and showed a glorious, strapless evening gown accented with beaded stripes.

Anna Sui's bad girls were of the sporty set. They wore mesh football jerseys dotted with sequins, tiny running shorts with knee-high socks and baby-doll dresses featuring Astro Turf-green appliqued golf holes. To - almost literally - drive home her point, Sui had Naomi Campbell carry a red golf club as she sauntered down the runway in a short white dress, golf visor and high boots.

No one managed to present spring's bad girl as memorably as Donna Karan, however. Karan shrugged off last season's black-dominated solemnity and unveiled a line of dresses, coats and suits that were both well-tailored and seductive.

"These clothes pay homage to women who make America strong," Karan said in her program, "women who dress with passion and live in their own inimitable style."

And what style Karan displayed. She showed a beautiful black wrap dress with a deep neckline, a wide sash that wrapped around the waist and delicate piping that added striking lines to the outfit. She paired a slender wool-and-jersey belted jacket with a jacquard swirl skirt. A dramatic black lining peeked out as the model twirled about.

It was, however, Karan's siren vision that was most spectacular. To the strains of Peggy Lee's "Fever," models appeared in sizzling satin and stretched tulle dresses with flouncy skirts and sweetheart necklines that framed their creamy bosoms. Their halter tops were tied at the neck with fat, satin ribbons that formed large, soft bows at the nape. And the tops came in oyster, red, black and pale blue, some with big polka dots that at once conveyed sweetness as well as bodaciousness and excess.

It wasn't just the vamp looks that were crowd-pleasers.

Carmen Marc Valvo's collection sparkled with sexy cocktail dresses and beautiful pieces such as a black leather trench coat lined with lace, and with ruffles at the hem. Narciso Rodriguez showed a breathtaking collection of slim silhouettes - tailored Capri pants, dresses and gowns that are cut so well they'll make any woman walk taller and more confidently.

And Vera Wang, who hasn't staged a runway show in a few seasons, returned to Fashion Week with panache. Drawing Holly Hunter and Oprah Winfrey to her front row, Wang shared a delectable vision for spring that included hand-pleated, ruffled or waffle-weave chiffon and organza skirts and gowns with wonderful details that set them apart. A dinner suit was spiced up with a macrame sash, and a floral chiffon gown had delicately ruffled epaulettes that fluttered as the model walked.

The most exceptional show of the week, however, was staged by Ralph Lauren.

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