Designer Carole Little spent weeks up to her neck in metallic yarns and silk Charmeuse. She designed two dressy collections for the holiday season. But if you spot her next month at a Christmas party, she'll likely be wearing old jeans and a bronze lame blouse. Not the usual holiday glitz.
But in Los Angeles, where the weather alone can destroy a traditionalist's view of the holidays, yuletide dressing can mean anything from a leather jump suit to a five-figure Galanos gown.
For the die-hard dress-up crowd, holiday '86 has the makings of one of the flashier seasons on record, weighted with sequins, beads, splashes of metal, laces and hunks of jewelry.
Dallas-based designer Victor Costa calls it a year of "escapism," when "clothes should take people's minds off the economy. Basic and bland is not what it's about."
Short of a splurge, glamour this season can be cornered in a single well-chosen investment or two: rhinestone hoop earrings. An embroidered and beaded "multimedia" sweater. Ornamented satin shoes.
In dresses, think "clothes that really flirt," says Sonja Caproni, I. Magnin vice president and fashion director. Dominating the category is the girlish, full-skirted cancan look, which skimmed along runways in recent European designer shows for spring.
In contrast, fall's long and slinky silhouette returns in luxurious knits--for example, a black cashmere sheath with a matching shawl. Figure-skimming black jersey comes out for night with cutout backs, side slits or allover beading.
These shapes often appear in a play of textures: A beaded evening sweater over a tiered chiffon skirt. A cashmere sweater over a long, taffeta gown.
Designer Bonnie Strauss trimmed a black jersey dress with leather shoulders and cuffs.
Whatever the surface, Rosemarie Troy, Bullocks Wilshire fashion merchandise director, insists it be "embellished." She sees this trend in everything from a studded denim evening jacket to the ubiquitous black velvets, trimmed with laces, appliques, beads and sequins.
This year's accessories--long earrings, chokers, matching bracelets and a wealth of hair ornaments--underscore all the dazzle. And holiday evening shoes "are like the jewelry themselves--with inset rhinestones and beading," notes Annie Bower, a spokesman at Amen Wardy, Newport Beach.
So spangled a season translates easily into separates.
Patricia Fox, Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director, recommends the gold lame blouse, worn collar up, as one of the best choices for those looking for just one key piece. Pair it with black velvet or flannel slacks.
Designer Little advises finding a "special" sweater, a waist-defining peplum jacket or sequined belt--preferably mixing these pieces unpredictably with other separates.
"If one part of you is very glittery or dressy, the other half should be totally opposite," says Little, who plans to wear a sheer antique skirt, leggings and a big sweater at upcoming holiday dos.
L.A. designer Bonnie Strauss also veers to the eclectic. Though she made a holiday collection with a traditional bent of black velvets and beaded jerseys, Strauss won't dress that way.
"It's just not me. I'm not the sort of person who wears an allover black velvet dress," she says. Her preference of what to wear for a holiday party--a lace camisole, big chenille jacket, printed batik skirt and boots--already hangs in her closet.
She adds that the ultimate accessory entails no purchase at all: "What makes a woman most beautiful is freshly washed hair."