Prim and pretty

The wide-eyed and demure would seem to have been the inspiration for a considerable portion of spring fashions. Delicate lace inserts, fine tucks, narrow ruchings, touches of embroidery, silk-flowers, and ribbon streamers abound. The frank feminity extends to dainty clothing with sheer collars and cuffs, and to puff sleeves that even an Elizabethan would call enormous.

Such full-blown romantic styles are by no means limited to sweet sixteen parties or proms, nor was that necessarily the designer's intent. The lace-embellished dresses by Geoffrey Beene, for instance, come in fluid, sophisticated crepe de Chine or in georgette. Their bonbon colors and fine detailing put them in the delectable class of clothes that makes no concessions to cleaning bills.

Like the billowy organza blouses that, with a plaid taffeta or a solid pastel moire skirt, make a desirable evening outfit, fluttery and/or frilled confections work well on someone who is not all sweetness and light. A little worldliness acts as spice, you might say.

Short to very short (most dance dresses show the knee), ankle-to medium waltz-length, the shapes of these so-called naive fashions vary from the wasp-waisted with bouffant skirt to the straight flowing chemise.

Derivations are eclectic, too. Some of the overtones are Victorian, or Shakespearean (by way of Yves Saint Laurent's inspiration), but there are engaging hints of Madame Bovary, Gigi, or Jane Austen heroines, too. When we come down to it, these are clothes that deserve the old-fashioned descriptive "pretty," to be worn with a thoroughly modern air.

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