FASHION remakes of Hollywood glamour girls from the 1940s and '50s and retakes of the disco darlings from the '70s are making history here. Again.
Just as moviemakers are redoing old films and musicians are remixing old songs, European fashionmakers are dusting off everyone from Marlene to Marilyn for another go at allure.
The new screen gems wear Jean Harlow's bias cuts, Marlene's corsets, Veronica's hairdo, Rita's satin slinks, Marilyn's feathers and rhinestones, Ava's open-neck jackets, and Betty Grable's satin shorts.
This Paramount look for spring begins in Milan in black and white, the way it all began in Hollywood before Technicolor came to the big screen in 1934. Valentino's Oliver collection and Gianfranco Ferre's signature collection both ooze with the cool, calculated, every-hair-in-place hauteur of the film goddess.
Because it's not possible to look glamorous in a short skirt, the hemline of record ends somewhere around the knees. Skirts are tight, hugging the backside, and the new jackets are cut broader at the shoulders to make the waist look smaller.
The most streamlined and the most heralded are by Gianni Versace, whose movie-star models now have built-in curves via inner and outer corsetry. Versace uses silk jersey, both plain and printed, for his screen-siren look, giving it an elegant, couture feeling with intricate torso draping.
Dolce & Gabbana's glam slam has a racy edge, evidenced in garments from the intimate apparel department, including bras and matching girdles under see-through skirts and seamed black stockings. Dolce & Gabbana's reprise of sleaze includes the most directional jacket of the season - a stick-to-the-ribs cut with open neckline. It ends at the hipbone and is belted at the waist.
Even Giorgio Armani has joined the movement by showing many of his signature pantsuits with bras peeping out. For the first time ever, Armani shows high heels - spindly sandals with teetering heels - and pale fish-net stockings. Because of his immense influence, Armani's endorsement of the New Femininity is sure to set off copies.
The most modern take on glamour comes from Jil Sander, whose fitted pantsuits in metallized organza bring new curves and soignee to a look once considered masculine. And from Christian Lacroix, whose dressed-to-thrill looks have an element of trashiness about them that makes them fresher than the verbatim glamour recalls on other runways. His new shoulders rise in pagoda peaks, his satin slip dresses shock the body in pink, and his silver Lurex ``Saturday Night Fever'' dresses are an haute hommage to '70s disco dressing. The look is high tack.
One of the strongest elements of the New Glamour is shine, as in waxed, glazed, moist-effect fabrics, many in once-maligned synthetics such as nylon, polyester, acetate, rayon, and spandex. Helmut Lang, John Galliano, Valentino, Sonia Rykiel, and Issey Miyake all shone. Lang's minimalist dresses look new in one-shoulder nylon styles that gleam nervously over matching dresses in body-comforting cotton mesh. Galliano's glamour girls wear the sinuous bias-cut gowns originated by Vionnet and immortalized on screen by Adrian's designs for Jean Harlow.
Of all the shiny fabrics, satin is by far the favorite, handled with distinction by Valentino, who tufts it with feathers, and Sonia Rykiel, who gives her satin pantsuits matching satin backpacks. Miyake's translucent, iridescent dresses and coats shaped like Mongolian tents and his shiny taffeta dresses that bounce up and down via wired hoop skirts are examples of his textile artistry.
In search of structure
Bras, long-line bras, corsets, girdles, and bustiers all bring a new shape to spring fashion. Stars here are Jean Paul Gaultier's 1890s corsets in lace and 1990s versions in denim, Vivienne Westwood's whaleboned bustiers in Boucher prints, Ferre's girdle swimsuit, Dolce & Gabbana's girdle pant and bra, Versace's jackets shaped with corset-hooks, and Valentino's boned, laced-front bustiers.
Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler, who first became famous by carving out the shape of the '70s, are both at home with hourglasses and sharp tailoring.
For Montana, the newest shapes have fitted waistlines and short, bell-shaped skirts. For Mugler, who's been building corsetry into his clothes for years, the curvaceous suits and the corselets evoke the memory of Marilyn Monroe in ``Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.''
Hips for the hip
The newest skirts and pants rest on the hipbone, sometimes even lower, and are often paired with midriff-revealing tops. Ozbek, who practically invented this look, shows his hipster skirts with fencer tops. Chloe's fitted satin jackets with taut midriffs stop just before they meet long knitted skirts drawstringed to fit at the hips. Romeo Gigli's brilliant homage to Africa is a veritable celebration of hipness, with both pants and skirts fitted and belted at the hips, many worn with cropped button-down shirts and shrunken neckties.
The single most important accessory of the season is the face. The new makeup is so exacting, so glossy, so deliberate that it obviates the need for earrings or necklaces. The face is almost free of foundation, sometimes with applied shine to echo the shine of the fabrics. Colored eye shadows are back, especially blue, in colors that match the clothes they're worn with. Blush returns to the cheeks, and lips are either glossy or matte red, or pastel.
The handbag is definitely back in the hands, not over the shoulder, as the structured bag reiterates the structure in the clothes.
High-heeled sandals are the shoe of the season, often in colored patent leather. Sandals are also the news in flats. Color-matched shoes are part of the monochromatic look.
Quick now, what is the glamour accessory of the season?
Hollywood shades, of course.