Designers Give '60s Mod the Nod In Ready-to-Wear Collections

OLD images are the new focus in fall fashion from New York. Think Julie Christie in ''Darling,'' Audrey Hepburn in ''Charade,'' Nancy Sinatra singing ''These Boots Were Made for Walkin,''' and Jacqueline Kennedy on her televised tour of the White House.

The 1960s came to life at Marc Jacobs, part of New York's fall-winter ready-to-wear shows that ended April 7. One of the icons from that era, Marianne Faithfull, sat front row center, watching the fashion re-dos from the era she helped define.

The sleeveless chemises and sheaths first worn by Hepburn and Kennedy, Christie's shrunken coats and jackets with bracelet-length sleeves, Sinatra's thatched eyelashes and boots -- they're all back, as retro mania once again grips American designers, suspending them -- and us if we buy into it -- in a time warp. Again. Even the Beatles' winklepickers are scuffing up the runways.

So how do these fashion fantasies translate for the real world of 1995? Here are the clothes most likely to make it off the runway and onto the streets:

* Dresses. While the No. 1 dress for fall is definitely sleeveless, many women will probably wear them with matching jackets or coats. Or layer them over fine-gauge sweaters the way Richard Tyler showed them. The newest dress idea for fall is a coat -- either a button-front coatdress or a real, lightweight trench or belted wrap in an industrial nylon, for example, worn as a dress.

* Coats. The above-mentioned wrap coats and trenches also exist as real coat-coats. They look newest in leather, alpaca, fake fur, and industrial nylon (often trimmed in fake fur). The other important coat is the refined knee-length, princess-seamed style Kennedy and Hepburn used to wear. The most memorable coats: Donna Karan's long fitted black ''prayer coat,'' Ralph Lauren's windowpane wrap, Victor Alfaro's fly-front reefer, Yeohlee's brown nylon peacoat, Todd Oldham's quilted satin out-of-bed jackets, and Isaac Mizrahi's ''crazy plaid'' (crazy because the plaid squares are in mixed sizes) rug coat. Many designers showed dramatic down-filled coats as well.

* Suits. Just as the newest dress of the season is a coat, the newest ''suit'' is a dress with jacket or dress with coat. The jackets for both skirts and pants are boxier, as at Calvin Klein, or long and lean, as at Badgley Mischka. The menswear influence is seen in pinstriped pantsuits, many accessorized with shirts and ties. The most convincing new pant jacket of the season is Linda Allard's side-button style for Ellen Tracy.

Hemlines range from short to ankle length with intermediate stops just above the knees, just below, and mid-calf. In other words, any length goes. At Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass, who dress some of the best-dressed, most hems are an inch or so above the knees.

* Pants. The narrow, stovepipe pant prevails, followed by Capris and hip-huggers. Todd Oldham's new denim jeans for Sun Apparel are wider-legged than Levi's 501s, with deep turn-back cuffs in contrast print, and some have high-rise waistlines.

In a season dominated by leather, Anne Klein's black leather and white leather jeans look important, as do the Klein sweater sets in black angora. The evening pants of the season come from Bill Blass, whose bronze metallic leopard print pantsuit looks truly modern, not '60s Mod-ern.

* Evening. Ballet-length debutante dresses look new again, and so do full-blown ballgowns, especially the tulle-skirted versions by Carolina Herrera and the colorful taffetas at Mizrahi.

r Accessories. If you can buy only one accessory for fall, get a pair of sunglasses. It's all part of the seasonless aspect of these fall/winter collections. Boots range from high-heeled, ankle-clutching booties to knee-highs, with the newest hitting somewhere between mid- calf and just below the knees. T-straps are everywhere, and the original Capezio shoe with tiny, set-back heel is another '60s relic brought back to life.

And for the ultimate statement in comfort -- a reaction, perhaps, to spring's teetering high heels -- Donna Karan showed her comfort-minded collection with flat slippers, some in pony prints.

Just when it seemed that the futures market for fall was based solely on derivatives from the past, along comes Geoffrey Beene to prove that fresh new ideas do exist, after all. His remarkable, standing-ovation-inspiring collection never once looked back to anyone's ideas but his own.

And to prove the functionality of the clothes, they were worn by both models and dancers, who, with their leaps and bounds, proved why he is leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. One black seamstress-defying dress featured a zipper that snaked its way around the body, performing as a design detail as well as a functional tool for getting in and out of the dress.

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