Designer Bob Mackie applauds dressier trend

All of a sudden, are beginning to dress like adults again," observed designer Bob Mackie during a visit to Boston. Known for the glamour of his Emmy Award-winning designs for such performers as Carol Burnett, Cher, Barbra Streisand, and Mitzi Gaynor, Bob Mackie welcomed the recent fashion trend toward dressier clothes that fill the gap between sportswear and formal evening wear.

"We've gone through a really strange time -- the period of 'gypsies, tramps, and Thieves,'" he said, referring to the last 10 years. "There is a whole generation of young women which has worn almost nothing but T-shirts and jeans, or a version thereof. But now women are beginning to think once again about dressing up to go out to dinner and perhaps dancing."

Even accessories are dressy nowadays, he pointed out, thinking undoubtedly of the return of the tiny, feathered cocktail hat and the gold clutch that replaces a handbag and is just big enough to hold lipstick, money, and a door key.

As a designer, however, Mr. Mackie sees danger in looking back too literally: "I don't think it's a good idea to be too 'retro.' You can take a wonderful detail here and there and make it 'today,' but you can't just hang on to those old designs."

As the creator of these frankly feminine garments, he believes in the appeal of glamour. How does this relate to the average woman? The designer's answer is that everyone has good and bad points, and why not present oneself in a way that enhances the best and de-emphasizes the worst?

Mr. Mackie calls this "creating illusions by dressing," and he practices it in designing for his famous clients, not all of whom have Cher's lean, yet rounded, Size 6 figure. A chapter in Mr. Mackie's recently published book. "Dressing for Glamour," gives "dos" and "donts" advice, complete with sketches, for every anatomical problem.

Mr. Mackie created the costumes for Carol Burnett's television show during its 11-year run. One section of his book details the incredible workweek of a designer responsible for the complex, often extremely elaborate costumes needed on a weekly TV show with a large cast. Other sections of the book give down-to-earth advice to aspiring young designers and describe the designer's working relationships with his many clients.

Though it is not mentioned in the book, Mr. Mackie revealed the surprisingly fact that "Carol Burnett and Cher have very similar bodies. They could wear each other's clothes. But one lady certainly wouldn't wear what the other would. Carol Burnett would feel silly dressed like Cher, and, of course, Cher wouldn't be seen in anything Carol would wear because it's too conservative."

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