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Lauren's Island of Serenity Amid a Sea of Bare Knees

November 07, 1986|BETTIJANE LEVINE | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Designer Ralph Lauren's spring fashion show on Wednesday was a tranquil respite from the sea of bare knees and swirling ruffles. Lauren, faithful to his vision of how certain women ought to look, ignored the major trends that have otherwise swept this city. No hemlines hiked above the knees, no petticoats rustled on his runway.

Even his colors ran against the current tide. A bit of menswear gray, a lot of black for city business, and everything else in light pastels or pale flower prints set on creamy backgrounds.

It was a softly elegant and graceful collection, featuring long, ankle-grazing skirts shaped gently into bias flares or skinny pleats. These were teamed with wide-neck silk blouses or summer sweaters, sometimes topped by shapely solid or tweed silk suit jackets.

Straw Hats and High Heels

The designer's dresses, in black, pastel or pale silk prints, had gently flaring long skirts below simple shirtwaist, scoop neck or bare-shoulder bodices. These were dressed up with large-brimmed straw hats and high-heeled shoes, which lent an exceptional, Old World glamour to the simple styles.

Pastel, pleated-front pants were topped with classic cashmere sweaters or sweater-jackets in lilac, yellow or blue. His more dressy pants, in black, were shown with white organza blouses and had pink sashes wrapped around the waistline.

In a spring season of aggressively urban and overembellished women's clothes, Lauren's back-to-basics styling and timeless simplicity were a welcome breath of fresh air.

The designer currently has 56 free-standing boutiques in America and 19 more on the drawing board. He will open his Los Angeles shop on Rodeo Drive in August.

Oscar de la Renta's showing, also on Wednesday, was of the slickly urban genre. Smock-back jackets in red and blue topped slim dresses with bare shoulders and above-the-knee hemlines. Hot pink, orange, yellow and fuchsia cashmere dresses, all above the knee, took linen or cashmere jackets, often in contrasting vivid colors. Peplums popped out everywhere on slim little suits and dresses, and white gloves worn with these outfits often had fingertips in the same color as the dress.

De la Renta offered plenty of slim little dresses with matching fitted jackets, in red, white and blue. They are this year's best alternative to the classic spring suit.

And his navy-and-white print cotton pique sundresses had fitted tops, full skirts and ruffled petticoats peeking out at the knee. But where the designer really went wild with ruffles, flounces and Carioca flourishes was in his evening wear.

Here he lavished pleated ruffles upon tulle petticoats beneath some skirts so bouffant they would barely make it through the average door. Rumba hemlines fluttered and dipped, cascaded and bounced beneath slim-bodied dresses of tucked black taffeta or shiny, sequin-embroidered chiffon in mint, blue, lilac and pink.

Conservative Gowns

Almost lost in all this clutter were the designer's more conservative gowns, which were beautifully shaped-and-draped pink, navy or white silk crepe and had nary a ruffle to recommend them to the exuberant crowd, which included socialites Nancy Kissinger, Evangeline Bruce and Brooke Astor.

Carolyne Roehm, who showed a 115-piece collection this week, did not choose the quiet side of the spring fashion fence either.

Her shapes are basically flattering to the figure and she offered some simple suits, dresses and gowns that any woman could wear. But the bulk of her styles were laden with gold embroidery, jeweled buttons, glittery belts and shocking color combinations. Peplums, petticoats and ruffles also entered into the act, tending to distract from the simpler, more wearable styles.

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