Holding One's Breath For New Paris Designs
High fashion is a cinch - at the waist - for fall and winter
THE wasp waist has stung again. That's the buzz here as the fall-winter haute-couture collections for 1994 draw to a close.Skip to next paragraph
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So many designers here have been bitten by corseted waistlines with back lacings that the newest accessory will have to be someone at home to pull the strings. (Think Scarlett O'Hara at the bedpost, and you've got it.)
The real test of the waist cincher's staying power will be how many women are ready - or willing - to hold their breath for fashion's sake.
The major proponents of waist whittling are Gianni Versace, Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, Valentino, and Christian Lacroix.
Versace's guepieres (that's French for wasp) are cut like long-line bras. One especially stunning version in pale-pink satin shows a glimpse of bare skin above a full moire taffeta ballgown skirt in the same color. Other versions in black or white show the navel above full satin skirts that stop above the knees.
Lagerfeld's homage to the wasp at Chanel features back-laced jackets or halter tops with taut, stay-in-place midriffs worn over charming ballgown-wide pants in moire taffeta or velvet.
Valentino's corsets and waist cinchers are built into the crinolined ballgowns they shape. Model Claudia Schiffer sent the cameras clicking in an hourglass gown with decollete black chiffon bodice, pink waist-cincher, and red taffeta skirt that whooshed into a big pouf over a pink petticoat covered in re-embroidered black lace. Lacroix's ``girdle dress'' with long slender matte jersey skirt has a hand-span waist shaped by a built-in waist-cincher of boned red satin. It's connected to a bodice of richly embroidered black velvet with tufted velvet puff sleeves - all very Glenn Close in ``Dangerous Liaisons.''
Other than swarming over wasp waistlines, the 20 Paris-based designers and four Italians who show here have given up such downtown causes as combat boots and Rollerblades and moved uptown, where women with spa-shaped bodies step to and from their limos in high heels. It's as if the entire haute couture has suddenly realized that women who spend four and five figures on one outfit have good figures, and want to show them.
And what comes after a wasp waist?
The bee's knees, of course. The so-called New Length ends anywhere from knee top to two inches above.
Even Versace, who last year was the first couturier to show an all-mini collection, now has a considerable number of suits that stop just short of the knees. The most directional are his pastel ``smokings'' - the French term for tuxedo suits.
Shorter skirts remain part of the hemline mix, but mid-calf lengths for day are a casualty of the season with major designers.
In addition to the snoods at Chanel and the glam-rock dresses made of see-through metal mesh at Versace, the glamour girls of couture wear movie-star red lipstick and Hollywood-starlet hairdos. The hautest hair was at Lacroix, where it was teased into leonine shags by Alexandre.