Fashion's Spring Song: `I Feel Pretty'
Ready-to-wear designers unveil softer, more feminine looks
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Versace's new baby-doll dresses are nursed with diaper pins for a kind of lost-innocence look, and his bias-cut nighties of lace and wrinkled silk are given the punk touch with strategically placed jeweled safety pins.Skip to next paragraph
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Contrasted with Versace's short and staccato look is Armani's long, languid, adagio mood. He offers only pants or long dresses over pants for day, ignoring short completely. His newest, sure-to-be-copied jacket flows softly from a one-button band collar, and his pants are feminized with side panels that are knotted at the waistline like sarongs.
Soft tailoring is also the Jil Sander signature for spring. Her long, three-armhole dresses with outside seaming wrap the body without confining it, and her amazing new tissue-weight lame brings gold to an entirely new standard.
Within the general framework of soft, here are the seasonal trends:
Getting centered. Skirts are both short and long, but it's the in-between that interests designers this season. Instead of focusing on the bosom or the hem, designers are drawing attention to the center of the torso by exposing it, wrapping it, and tying it. Bare midriffs are in almost every collection, pants rest on the hips, and the navel is bellying up everywhere.
The new ethnicities. From Karl Lagerfeld's Ode to a Grecian Yearn for Chloe to Jean Paul Gaultier's piercing nose jewelry and sari send-ups, designers seem to long for other cultures, other times.
The travelogue includes ancient Rome (any designer with Roman sandals and toga draping) India (Gaultier, Tykeil), Morocco (Emanuel Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent, and Claude Montana), Romania (Dolce & Gabbana), Africa (Christian Lacroix, Saint Laurent, and Complice), China (Krizia), and Greece (Chloe, Romeo Gigli, Thierry Mugler, and Herve Leger.)
Underwear. It's peeking above the waistlines of pants and the necklines of dresses. It's showing right through sheer dresses, and it's the latest way to make anything old look new. The essentials include bras, panties, jockey shorts, waist cinchers, camisoles, slips, teddies, and the quintessential item of the season - a ribbed-knit tank top like Clark Gable's undervest. For night, it's the nightie, the peignoir, and the dressing gown.
She's so transparent. For spring, the new sheers can show through to another layer of fabric beneath as well as to skin.
Lagerfeld's new ``skindress'' is a stocking-sheer stretch that covers bras, panties, miniskirts, and swimwear. It comes in black and white and can be rolled down to the waist or up to the hips for instant sun-bathing or shading. The tulles, chiffons, and georgettes that abound in many collections most often provide a filter for brief bikinis or a veil for plain cotton-knit T-shirts and tanks.
Color. White is the new black. The ivory/bone/bisque/ecru family is major. And the pastels of spring are not the acid pastels produced by American dyestuffs, but the faded pastels of antiquity, especially those associated with ancient frescoes.
Pleats please. Issey Miyake's amazing corrugated pleats have inspired look-a-likes this season, as in Gigli's Grecian chitons. Pleats also show up as mini-kilts at Galliano, where they get tartan panties.
Bare legs. Except for Valentino's lace legs and his printed pantyhose with matching skirts, legs for spring are mainly nude, sometimes shown with anklets for the baby look or knee-highs for little-girl dressing.
For a punk touch, Lagerfeld drew a center seam on one leg in his signature collection. Sandals are a shoe-in for the season, looking right with all the Roman and Grecian clothes as well as the simple modern shapes, as at Helmut Lang.
Sweet, poetic florals are the predominant prints of the season, all evidence of the pretty look that prevails in many quarters.
But there is also a tougher side to the print story, as in Gaultier's tattoo prints and his graffiti scribblings and Lagerfeld's hieroglyphics.
New, too, are Gigli's print motifs taken from Grecian urns - the perfect theme for all the neoclassical design ideas.