Early Photos Offer Preview of Fall as Action Shifts to Paris

March 14, 1986|BETTIJANE LEVINE | Times Fashion Editor

MILAN, Italy — The hot tickets next week won't be here or even on Broadway--but in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.

That's where the top French designers will show their new fall styles. And that's where the action is supposed to be.

But there are many crossed fingers as fashion people of the world jet from every place imaginable to the City of Light, where spring showings were something of a disappointment a few months back.

Building a Merchandising Dream

This time around, store buyers (especially the Americans) want more than a good show. Ideally, they would like something to build a merchandising dream on; some new ideas that are witty and bright and will tantalize consumers into spending big bucks for imported dresses, coats and suits that work wonders for the psyche--and the figure. That, after all, is what Paris is famous for.

This is especially true right now, because the U.S. dollar is about 25% weaker than it was at the time of last year's fall collections. Store executives know that the shrinking dollar means sky-high prices, which in turn mean that a larger portion of their European budgets will be absorbed by fewer purchases. They will have to be more cautious and try to select only "sure things."

Judging from advance photos for The Times, there's an even chance that the French will provide an elegant, wearable, but not very earth-shaking reception.

Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler, it appears, are still stuck on broad shoulders, slim silhouettes, body-conscious curves and a variety of hem lengths.

Sonia Rykiel is knitting and purling her name on cuddly, comfortable sweater-dresses.

But even if it does turn out to be "fashion as usual" this time around, there's nothing "usual" about the way Parisians carve out an ensemble. There's excitement in the seams, in the shaping, in the fabric. There's excitement in the way a very ordinary shape looks in extraordinary French designer clothes, even those that don't look great on hangers.

It's the old Cinderella story, told twice a year, in spring and fall, when Paris turns on the charm and explains to the world that French clothing is not utilitarian body covering.

For the women who wear it, it can be magic.

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