THE messages from the European spring ready-to-wear shows are
clear: Change, chaos, rebellion, retro, sexuality in flux. It's the
clothes that take a little unscrambling. Somewhere under the
layers, the hair, and the love beads, a new woman is emerging.
She's pink and baby blue. She's pretty. And she's
industrial-strength sweet. The new woman from these Paris
collections is as feminine, and sometimes even as fragile and
innocent, as her predecessors were strong and aggressive.
She wears long white cotton damask and eyelet dresses with
cutwork and fagoting at Chloe and Chanel. She covers her full
damask-linen skirts with hand-painted aprons at Christian Lacroix.
And she rediscovers white broderie Anglaise (English embroidery) as
the comeback fabric of the season - the materialization of
innocence and femininity in eyelet and other fine white needlework.
Karl Lagerfeld gives these sweet embroideries his imprimatur at
Chanel, closing the show with exquisite tablecloth handwork - all
in white, all christening-dress delicate.
The apron is perhaps the most symbolic item of the season,
appearing in almost every collection, usually over pants, and
signifying the gentler woman from the tied-to-her-apron-strings
The new woman is also more serene, less frantically sexy. Claude
Montana portrays her in a brilliant collection of soft, creamy silk
crepe pants with self-belted trench jackets in the same fluid cut.
Or in sheer, sleeveless tops of khaki viscose jerseys over flowing
jersey pajamas. Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons sees her in pale
cotton jacquards that have been processed to remove the color. In a
remarkable dressmaking feat, the Japanese designer cuts long,
sleeveless dresses from one piece of fabric, then darts-in the
shape rather than cutting and seaming it.
Clothes with a past. While no one is sure where fashion is
going, there's a lot of evidence of where it's been. The 1960s and
early '70s showed up in the Milan shows, with bell-bottoms, love
beads, cropped tops, flower children, and Superfly platforms.
The '50s were represented by the full calf-length skirts Annette
Funicello and Sandra Dee would have worn with their
And the '20s and '30s gave us women in ivory silk crepe-de-chine
chemise dresses and parasols.
The lookbacks that are the most puzzling are the many dresses
and skirts with trains. From Yamamoto's tribal dresses that leave
at least four yards of fabric trailing in their wake to Romeo
Gigli's black Spider Woman gown with not one but two trains,
fashion's rear-guard action links these dresses to the past - the
Redefined sexuality. Versace, who has done as much to define the
strong, highly-charged sex subjects of recent years as anyone short
of Madonna, continues to explore fashion sexuality - this season in
sleek white crepe Martha Graham-like dance dresses with revealingly
low, square-cut necklines. He also perfects the bellwether
bell-bottoms from his July haute-couture collection via pantlegs
that flare, flounce, fan, and trumpet above platform sandals. Some
spring out over white pantaloon-like petticoats.
Show time. In the continuing saga of see-through (designers love
it, but do you ever see anyone wearing it?), the news for the
spring is that the sheerness has traveled from tops to bottoms.
Lagerfeld's see-through skirts from his signature collection last
March and his transparent chiffon pants from Chanel haute couture
in July began as a way to keep miniskirt-lovers happy by giving
them a way to show their legs in long skirts or pants. These
garments set the stage for a new look at transparency and have
triggered an explosion of such fabrics as chiffon, organza,
georgette, and sheer jersey.
Unlike his first see-throughs for Chanel that posed mousseline
pants over thigh-high stockings, Lagerfeld's new chiffon pants are
shown over black bodysuits in this collection for Chloe - his first
for that company in nine years. …