Spring fashion: the total look

Aside from the attention they are paying to whittling down the waistline, American fashionmakers are not being overly categorical about style directions for spring. The designers who recently presented their clothes in the final days of a busy fortnight of showings here allowed plenty of leeway.

Instead of treating spring as a brief interlude between winter and summer, designers are seeing it as a full-scale season that requires well-rounded selections of styles. Their clothes are more carefully set off with accessories than they have been, and they run the gamut from suits to nighttime glamour. Within each grouping the designers came up with enough variants in shapes and lengths to keep just about everybody happy.

Such details as hats, hairdos, jewelry, and stockings were chosen with a meticulousness that has not been seen since the 1950s, when women studied the pages of Vogue and endeavored to become as manicured, coiffed, and altogether polished as the magazine's idealized models.

Striving for perfection is, in other words, again a suggested goal. But unlike last time, there now is more than one way to achieve ''the right look.''

The reeferlike coat dress, a good bet for executive types, and the suit have emerged as stellar spring styles. Many new suits have what used to be known as ''dressmaker details,'' which may remind those with long memories of Hattie Carnegie. Suits at Halston have contrasting piping or double lapels, sometimes both; Bill Blass likes a single lapel of a different color. The flared peplum, a leitmotif at Oscar de la Renta, is sometimes doubled or even tripled on his wasp-waisted suits as well as his late-day organzas.

The suit that stands out from the crowd, though, is our old friend the tailored classic. It is, to be sure, the latest in tailored suits - hip-length of jacket, wide of shoulder, indented at the waist, and often double-breasted. The skirt clears the knees and, although narrow, is given an inverted pleat or some other provision for comfort in getting around.

Spring does not promise to be colorful. Black and white and navy are, as they were last year, the mainstays. Pastels fill out the picture. Brights are mostly used as accents. Another carryover from last spring is the big, bold, black-and-white referee stripe.

Should the trend toward more structured clothing really take over, there is always Geoffrey Beene to the rescue. This designer's mode of dress remains light-as-a-feather and highly individualistic. Mixtures of thin materials of related textures and prints are skillfully juxtaposed, and the decorative finishings are applied with consummate artistry. Among them are the lace insets and hems Beene has been using in ingenious ways.

Also worth remembering when spring draws nearer are the oversize jewels la Renta showed. Big pieces of jewelry are everywhere, but his are the biggest: rocklike beads and link necklaces of huge colored cabochons, not to mention drop earrings glittering with large stones.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.