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Designers Keep Sex Appeal in Mainstream Dressing

March 14, 1986|BETTY GOODWIN

The suits aren't so much fitted as sculpted. The dresses don't just follow a woman's curves, they somehow invent new ones. They're definitely not the sort of clothes that you wear to the office, unless you're seriously clamoring for attention.

Of course, Vicky Tiel thinks attention is just fine. For women to wear man-tailored suits to work is "horrible," she pouts. "It smacks of androgyny. Corporations put so much pressure on women to look and act like boys, and there's no reason. Why can't a woman wear a suit with a keyhole neckline?" she asks of her new hourglass designs for spring, made in black-and- white silk ottoman. "Everyone would have a better day."

Tiel not only designs the clothes, she knows all the reasons for wearing them. Ideologically somewhere between "The Total Woman" and Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the petite Paris-based designer who teeters on spike heels and glistens with jewels, doesn't think there's anything old-fashioned about sex appeal. Dress sexy, she contends, and you'll not only look more like a woman, but you'll make a man feel more like a man.

"I'm talking about the intellectual, bright, working woman," Tiel says. "Feminists confused them into thinking they had to be like men, but they're turning men off completely. Shock men. Demand gifts. Dress sexy. The achiever who acts like an achiever all the time is making men impotent. It's a major problem."

If there's any truth to her theory, it's evident in her sales figures, which she says are up 50% in the last four years.

Born in Chevy Chase, Md., Tiel moved to Paris upon graduation from Parsons School of Design in 1964, married and set up her own atelier. She sees herself more as a dressmaker than a fashion designer, because "a designer tries to set trends, and I have only one mission in life: to enhance the body and make women look prettier. I make self-improvement clothes."

Accordingly, Tiel's collections don't change radically from season to season, and she always includes one of her signature "mummy draped" dresses, which she shows for spring in "wet look" cut velvet. Prices range from $750 for the ottoman suits to $3,600 for an elaborate gown and are available at I. Magnin, Beverly Hills.

Roger Vivier

Roger Vivier is only concerned with a woman's sexuality from the ankles down. Vivier has been fashioning avant-garde footwear since 1937 when he took credit for creating the first platform shoe for Schiaparelli.

At his peak, Vivier was supplying 14 couture houses with his designs, including a 10-year alliance with Christian Dior.

In 1976, Vivier closed shop and moved to a medieval castle in Dordogne, France, where he quietly designed shoes for a Japanese firm. But last year the 68-year-old designer decided it was time to make shoes for America.

He still favors modernist and whimsical touches. In his 35-piece collection, priced from $225 to $360 at I. Magnin, is the sleek "comma" heel shoe he first invented in 1972. A dress pump featuring a spike heel slicing through a rhinestone ball is an updated version of a shoe he created for Marlene Dietrich.

He uses dramatic ankle straps, because, he says: "It is very good to have the ankle ornamental."

Speaking through a translator, Vivier said women should always think first of the clothes that shoes are going to be worn with.

In the morning, he thinks it is best to wear a shorter heel and "go higher and higher as the day goes on."

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