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Making Designs More Subtle, Distinctive : Jill Richards

October 18, 1985|BETTY GOODWIN

"Last year we were glitzed to death," Jill Richards says. So this year, even though there is still some glitz to be found in her fall collection, Richards points out that it's used sparingly.

"Like so," the diminutive designer explains as she riffles through a rack of clothes and whips out a dinner suit made of black French lace re-embroidered with random paillettes and gold thread. The outfit shimmers, but doesn't shout.

The Los Angeles designer, who specializes in evening clothes, has determined that rhinestones, bugle beads and "the whole sequin picture" are finished, and they've been replaced by a more subtle approach to sparkle.

Richards says she likes paillettes--those little plastic round disks that are slightly larger than sequins--because they are lightweight and almost transparent in their iridescence.

For even more understated glitter, Richards favors rich velvets--most of them imported from Europe--that need no embellishment at all. One of her favorites is a mocha, beige and coral cut velvet, shot with gold thread, which she uses for two dress styles, both simple and draped, one long and one mid-calf.

When the fabrics are rich and the styling uncontrived, she points out, "a dress can go on for years."

One touch Richards simply cannot resist is a ruffle. Ruffles have become her flamboyant trademark.

She designed a bare, red jersey cocktail dress, outstanding for its hemline encrusted with yards of silk taffeta--15 yards to be precise. The fabric is cut and wound as if to form cabbage roses. If the roses happen to get crushed, Richards advises the wearer: "Shake them up and they pop out again."

Jill Richards clothes are available at Saks Fifth Avenue.

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