The suit: variations on a theme

From the chalk-striped navy flannel to the black gabardine with a perky white peplum and white lapels, the spring suit selection is one of the treats of the season.

Having ignored its possibilities over a long hiatus, fashionmakers have outdone themselves in coming up with any number of variations on the suit theme.

Although the prevailing shape is long and lean, with definite emphasis across the shoulders, there is no set formula. A two-color suit (red or white jacket with black or navy skirt is a favorite combination) packs as much fashion punch as those in one color. But unexpected touches are what set this spring's suits apart from what has gone before.

Contrasting details like the black lapels on the Bill Blass white wool that is pin-striped in black, for example, typify one current look. Calvin Klein's bandmaster jacket with its wide piano-key striped lapels is another instance of the new and innovative.

Piping, in the manner of a man's dressing gown, is used by the Anne Klein designers for the bathrobe-wrap jackets. Halston piped nearly everything in sight with little satin bindings. Many of his suits are three-piece costumes, composed of finger-tip jacket, envelope-wrap skirt, and matching vest.

Jackets generally either end at the waist or extend well below the hips, and slim skirts either have pleats at one side or buttons along the seam. Full pleated or swing skirts exist, too, though. No one could say there isn't enough variety.

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