Black and white will be seen all over -- sometimes with red. But most times as an eye-catching duo. Some of the most stunning graphics of spring rely on this play-off of positive-negative contrast. Used in blocks by Yves Saint Laurent with the light areas framed by borders of dark braiding and vice versa, the effect is highly dramatic.

Many influences (Picasso, in particular, for YSL) contribute to the graphically strong fashion of spring. Taking off from Picasso's costume designs for the ballet "The Three-Cornered Hat," Saint Laurent picked up such motifs as the wave stripe, the zigzag, asterisks, and the dot and scallop pattern, as well as the tricorn hat itself. Besides his translations in black and white, Saint Laurent drew colors from Picasso, heightening their intensity.

Karl Lagerfeld of Chloe stressed black with white in abstract prints, and Givenchy divided chemise dresses into verticals and squares of black or navy against white. In their couture designs, both Givenchy and Marc Bohan of Dior used jailbird stripes on the diagonal and horizontally for striking suits and dresses. Some new geometric prints recall the optical illusions of op artists.

The mathematical game of chromatic divisions has been taken up by US designers, too. Many spring suits come with dark jackets and white skirts (or the reversed order). Mary McFadden splits crystal-pleated silk evening turnouts into areas of black and white.

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