Europe Shows off Its Ready - to - Wear Borrowing from the Past, Designers Charge the Fashion Atmosphere with Bold Colors and Fluttering Femininity for Spring and Summer
Marylou Luther, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
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 generation.
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 off-the-shoulder blouses.
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 immediate past.
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. …