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L.A. Vignettes

Specialty Stores Are Knee-Deep in Hemline Debate

May 22, 1987|BETTY GOODWIN

Now that hemlines are indisputably on the rise, should women with less than perfect bodies show their kneecaps?

Nancye Radmin, owner of the Forgotten Woman large-size specialty stores, thinks not.

"Our dimples have to be on our faces, not on the backs of our knees," said the outspoken retailer, who recently opened her 18th shop in Newport Beach's Fashion Island. (Her Wilshire Boulevard outpost in Beverly Hills is now 8 years old.)

"They're not going to do it, they're just not," she said of the likelihood of her customers hiking up their skirts.

"My ladies are elegant. They don't want to look like clowns.

"I think short skirts look good on some people," Radmin continued, "but bikinis look good on some people."

In actuality, hemlines will be inching up, even for Sizes 14 to 26. "Last year we were buying 34- and 36-inch (mid-calf) skirts," Radmin said. "For fall, we're buying 26 inches"--or just below the knee.

"Nevertheless, I think you should not go above the knee," she emphasized.

"I'm told I have very nice legs--I mean for my size," Radmin added, lifting up the skirt of her white crepe Michael Kors dress to make her point.

"But I think even I would be pushing it."

Elsewhere on the hemline front, Nancy Vreeland said she will be exposing thigh when she arrives at the Mark Taper Forum June 1 for SFA/USA, the fashion gala benefit presented by the Music Center and Saks Fifth Avenue. (Proceeds go to the Music Center Unified Fund.)

Vreeland will be wearing a black strapless taffeta dress from Oscar de la Renta's spring collection. And it's short. Very short.

"You could say almost thigh-high," said Vreeland, who is chairing the black-tie event, which will feature the fall collections of Bill Blass, Carolyne Roehm and Carolina Herrera.

"I think for evening, with the leg and the shoe (a high-heel pump) all working together, it's fun. It's whimsical. It's attractive if the proportions are right. This dress is kicky, and it really is the fashion of the moment."

Having resolved the issue of length, the remaining fashion question for those attending the benefit appeared to be choosing which label to wear, bearing in mind that all three designers would be present. How does one select among the three? Is it politic to wear still another designer's label?

The consensus, taken from a random sampling of committee members, is: Wear another designer's label. For Lili Zanuck, it will be Chanel. Wendy Goldberg and Kati Domyan both settled on Galanos. Maggie Wetzel will choose Geoffrey Beene. Keith Kieschnick is opting for Ronald Mann and Debbie Lanni for Ann Lawrence.

Then there's Rhonda Fleming Mann. She can't decide between Rubin Panis or Blass.

What did the women wear who attended Neiman-Marcus' teatime showing of the Bernard Perris fall collection last week? A kaleidoscope of prints--florals, dots, abstracts--even though the clothes on the runway were notably devoid of prints.

Patricia Kennedy was in a Galanos print. Joan Selwyn's pattern was by Ungaro. Joni Smith and Evie Spound came in identical Perris configurations.

Asked who created her floral print dress, Ellen Byrens replied: "I call it my Miss Bloom dress. Miss Bloom is my saleswoman at Neiman's."

"It's St. Gillian," Miss Bloom informed her.

"Is that anything good?" Byrens giggled.

President Reagan and the world's economists aren't the only ones fretting about the sagging dollar. Because of the dollar's drop, the price of Ferragamo shoes from Italy have already risen 14% over last year. Ferragamo is among Italy's largest makers of high-quality shoes.

Women's shoes from the current spring collection carry price tags of $90 (for the most casual shoes) to $230. By fall, prices will go up an additional 5% to 6%.

"For five years we did not increase one dollar the cost on the shoes," Massimo Ferragamo, president of Ferragamo USA and son of founder Salvatore, said during a recent visit here. "Now we had to raise it," he added.

'Because of the dollar doing this bad trick to us," Ferragamo said, the company's main objective is to seek out ways to focus on the efficiency of its factories and hire top talent to streamline operations to keep a lid on prices. The United States is the company's largest market.

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