The new clothes for spring are not going to make waves of controvery. The styles are generally agreeable, easy to take. What is more, they are wearable -- for which read: nothing freaky or extreme.
Nevertheless, the new season's fashion picture has its problematic aspects. For one thing, it is not all of a piece. Although certain descriptives (uncluttered, lightweight, unstructured . . .) have general application, the whole picture is fragmented. This is not a year when a single trend dominates.
It is not a suit season, especially, not a dress-and-jacket season, nor is it a sportswear-separates season -- although these ways of dressing all count in importance. Nor is it a skirt-vs.-pants season, since both are on a fashion par. Spring 1980 is composed of highly divergent looks, which makes it a season of type-dressing.
The principal opposing twains are ruffled feminine and starkly geometric styles. We have pleated silk crepe dresses with baby collars, described as "innocent," and broad-shouldered, rectilinear clothes with a futuristic air. Thus, just around the corner from the tender ingenue with the puffed sleeves, we bump into the sharp angles of the architectural look.
The graphics are strongly defined and contrasts decisive. Designers have rediscovered the power of black and white -- as well as the circle and the square, triangles and polygons, and above all, stripes (and how to play them against each other on the diagonal. Following the lead of early cubist painters , fashion creators like Yves Saint Laurent are busily breaking up the surfaces of clothes into partitions of dark and light and slicing suits and dresses into color separations.
The colors themselves are happily sunny without being a s cymbal-crashingly bright as last year. We are gradually entering a softer pastel phase -- in fashion, at least, if not in other areas of life.
Mathematical graphics, black and white, ruffles (whether single or triple-tiered), and lace-trimmed Gibson Girl blouses are already being featured by the stores. Conscientious about providing something for everybody, designers have come up with a number of other ideas that are newsy and promotable. It is possible thing spring to dress in Rio carnival carioca ruffles, in Grand Tour ocean-liner navy and white flannels, or in businesslike miniature checks and regimental stripes.
The preoccupation with asymmetrics -- the science of diagonal cuts and off-center closings -- has resulted in the one-lapel suit or dress. Halston lines his suit lapels with a contrasting bright color. He uses the same dash of turquoise or fuschia as facing on uneven hemlines that dip down in the back and fold over above the knees in front. Other designers are equally intrigued with one-sided looks: The one-shouldered dress is practically a cliche for evening.
Re-appreciation of the classics has turned traditionals into trendies. The twin sweater set, a likable combination, has evolved into twin tops: a short-sleeved shirt, a tube, or a camisole, plus a loose cardigan, in sheer voiles as well as in print crepes and silky knits. Geoffrey Beene showed these companionate pieces all through his collection, from beachwear to evening, with baggy pants or full skirts.
The sweat shirt has been picked up -- union stitching and all -- and upgraded to matte jersey and other luxe materials. Cotton sweaters -- both art knits in abstract designs and pastel pointelles -- are due for a spirited spring and summer run.
The evergreen accessories invented by Coco Chanel (the quilted bag with shoulder chain and the two-tone sling-back pumps) are being recopied as class act chic for the umpteenth time.
Most familiar of all, the Ivy League-and-upper-suburbia classics that much of America loves and already wears have been somewhat revised and elevated to higher fashion status. Designated as "preppy," these styles are white hopes of the junior manufacturing market for spring and summer.
"Lady" clothes -- the tailored slubbed honans and linens needed by women executives and committee workers -- have not been neglected. Nor have suits, which come with short or long jackets and are styled with varying degress of sophistication and formality.
All-out dressing is still reserved for late day, with satins, chiffons, laces , and hand-painted silks and taffetas among the preferential choices.
Evening, however, is the one time of day when the short hemline spells fashion. The prevalence of Knee-baring bubble, triple-flounced, and starchy ballerina skirts in the European and American collections said "up with short and down with ankle-length" dresses for evening. Not historymaking, perhaps, but it is the only significant change in this spring's assortment of likable clothes.