Riots of ruffles

Ruffles make more than a ripple this season. They are on the crest of fashion. Miles of them cascade down fronts and backs. They go around necklines , wrists, hems, and armholes, with additional frilly yardage turning up in new spots such as on trouser edgings and along side seams. Entire dresses are made of ruffles -- both the limp chiffon variety and the stiffened organza sort.

Some designers simply launched forth into a sea of flounces, after which there apparently was no turning back. The designers were then locked in contest , so what could they do but strive to outmatch each other, ruffle for ruffle? This they did, and attempting to elect the champion in spring's tournament of ruffles would probably end in a draw.

Bill Blass is a likely contender, with highly romantic yet sophisticated ruffling, principally taffetas and silk organdies.

But Halston is no laggard. His soaring sleeves of layered bias frills are perhaps more controlled than some frills we could name.

As king of ruffledom, Oscar de la Renta would be hard to outclass. Who else has a dance dress composed of nine consecutive rows of flounces? One minute La Renta's forte is native Carioca-style ruffles; the next, a form of lacy, frilly decoration generally associated with the bakeshops of patissiers.

All these American fashion creators deserve blue ribbons for doing highly delectable ruffles in their own ways.

As to the care and feeding of ruffles, none of these particular designers seems to have been overly concerned. Such questions as who is pressing all those ruffles or who has closets big enough to house them hang in midair. Some Oscar de la Renta ball gowns take up as much floor space as a 19th-century crinoline. But the woman who can afford a dress that is covered with yard upon yard of hand-rolled flounces is presumably the women to whom the rumpled ruffle is of trifling importance. She can let and maid worry about it; or she could throw the dress away.

It should be said here that not all ruffles present big upkeep problems, for besides the candy-box confectionery type, simpler ruffles abound this season. Did we think we would ever have a tailored ruffle? Nevertheless, we do, or frills of every ilk -- from lampshade ruching to the neat, pleated variety -- are running riot this season, on dresses and blouses for daytime as well as on ultrafeminine evening extravaganzas.

Lest the foregoing should sound antirather than pro-ruffle, that is not the intent. As to maintenance capability, there are quite a few silk or cotton blends that require only the minimum of dressing.

If one seeks, out the ruffle that suits one's type and clothes budget, a frill gives an engaging flourish. Whether to use restraint or plunge into a whole bevy will naturally depend on personal choice.

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