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Easterners Embrace Get-Loose Looks by Spirited L.A. Designers

May 17, 1985|BETTIJANE LEVINE | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles came flashing into Brooklyn Wednesday night, and virtually all of social Brooklyn, cultural Brooklyn, official Brooklyn and political Brooklyn crammed into Abraham & Strauss to celebrate "The L.A. Spirit." New York Times, April 18, 1985 Los Angeles is hot. Especially in New York. Big Applers who've never even seen Los Angeles are suddenly studying up on West Coast cuisine and California kitsch. Not only did all 30 Abraham & Strauss branches in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania recently celebrate "the L.A. spirit" as if it were an exotic, natives-are-restless kind of thing--but the trendy Bloomingdale's East Coast stores also offered a major Los Angeles salute not long ago.

In the Eastern fashion world, in fact, Los Angeles has lost its "second city" status and is now looked upon as the "other city"--the nation's best alternative resource for creative clothes.

And alternative it is. L.A. designers are neither behind nor ahead of the rest of the fashion world. They simply

ignore it.

When fall collections opened here recently, for example, it was obvious that the sophisticated, skinny-malink styles now showing east of the Rockies have not intimidated local designers.

Out here, the oversize, wide-shoulder look is still a staple for fall.

Pads shape the shoulders of sweaters, coats, blouses and jackets. Room-at-the-top sportswear, dresses and suits abound, often accompanied by slim stirrup pants or narrow skirts in mid-calf or mini lengths.

And since designers here say they do at least half their business in the East and South, it's safe to assume that this California comfort look will remain alive nationwide, despite the skinny-fit syndrome now saturating New York.

But Los Angeles isn't a one-tune fashion town. Many designers who show oversize looks also feature super-slim styles. However, their skinny shapes are more natural, less contrived. They are not darted and draped to give Raquel Welch proportions to a Peter Pan figure. In fact, even the slinkiest skirts and pants often have elastic waistbands, so you can do your yoga breathing anytime, anywhere.

Gene Ewing of Bis, for example, shapes some of her below-calf skirts and dresses as slinkily as any designer anywhere. But Ewing is essentially Californian in her outlook.

"Either you've got 'em (slim hips) or you haven't," she says. And if you haven't, you'd better find something more comfortable and less revealing to wear. Ewing offers more spacious, full-skirt looks for fall too.

Other designers also offer both skinny and spacious looks for fall. Wide and narrow skirts are mostly mid-calf or longer, with minis making a minor showing. Slim stirrup pants are a big item, especially when teamed with oversize blouses, sweaters or jackets.

More classic shapes (straight-leg pants, short or long tailored jackets) are staples from California sportswear designers. But even the classics have slightly exaggerated shaping to give them an '80s aura.

Suit jackets, for instance, are roomy and often have dolman sleeves to accent the roominess. Other styles are cropped short or hit low on the hip line. The classic "dress for success" blazer is as dead in this city as it is everywhere else--no matter what John T. Molloy may say.

California designers love cotton, even for fall. New permutations of the fabric--it's now quilted, padded, fleeced and bonded

together in multiple layers--have been turned into cozy sportswear appropriate even for cold climates. And designers say they're selling winter cottons straight across the country.

As with design, there is no general consensus here about fall fabrics or colors. It's a follow-your-heart kind of thing. Some designers opt for wool knits, wool jerseys and velvet looks; others select cotton, leather, acrylic knits or synthetic wovens.

There are some tapestries, paisleys, tweeds--some murky shades and some zingy brights. In fact, there seems to be a little bit of everything. The designer's mood, rather than some universal fashion virus traveling in the wind, dictates what the total look of each collection will be.

In truth, Los Angeles' secret of fashion success is its individualism. Clothes photographed here will soon be purchased by women around the country, not because they come from California but because they celebrate an alternative life style in which comfort and ease coexist with creativity and elegance.

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