NEW YORK — Fashion's high season starts today, as this city's best-known designers unveil spring styles in a week of glossy shows. But retailers aren't holding their breath.
It's assumed that designers such as Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass will succumb, in one way or another, to the current colorful and romantic trend seen around the world. It's also assumed that these designers care more about making dollars and sense than making headlines and that they'll offer enough middle-of-the-road choices to please their most conservative fans.
This theory was confirmed last week when some of the more affordable New York collections were shown.
At Anne Klein II, designers Richard Assatly and Maurice Antaya perched on high-stools in front of reporters as models strutted the new spring look. Shapes were simple, often featuring long linen or silk jackets over short, slim skirts, with stretch cotton/lycra tank tops instead of blouses. One applauded version featured a pink and white check linen blazer, a matching body shirt and a gray skirt of summer-weight wool.
Some jackets were teamed with shorts instead of skirts. "Do you really think women will wear shorts to the office?" a Michigan reporter asked. The designers answered simultaneously, one responding "Yes" and the other "No."
A mid-thigh-length sleeveless dress prompted another question: "Is this the length you're shipping to the stores?"
"This is the length we'd like to ship because we think it looks good," Assatly said. "But, in reality, we will ship clothes at least three inches longer than this." The collection is priced from $80 to $450.
Liz Clairborne also offered soft, wearable looks for office and sport. Divided skirts, sarong-wrap skirts and slim skirts with just a bit of fullness over the hips all ended just above the knee. With these came a variety of long, loose jackets and shirts or blouses to match.
Clairborne presented a few high-waisted skirt designs, some sleeveless cotton knit tent dresses and a crisp looking group of white skirts, blouses and sweaters that look refreshingly all-American.
Eleanor P. Brenner seemed to hit all the season's highlights without going to unwearable extremes. Her zingy collection featured body-hugging styles as well as easy shape skirt and jacket outfits.
In a bright, cotton knit group that seemed inspired by biker and surfer gear, she offered short, zip-front jackets, clingy knit tops, bicycle pants and mini-skirts.
Another group, in silk, features long slim jackets over narrow skirts, or jackets with fitted waistlines and long peplums that flare to just a few inches above the hem of slim skirts. Jade, rhubarb, purple, tangerine, marigold, black navy and beige were colors in this collection with prices ranging from $100 to $400.
Cathy Hardwick's key word is "spare." Everything here fits the body like a wet suit, because almost everything is made of stretch cotton, stretch lace or regular cotton that has been elasticized to an all-over pucker.
Molded to the Body
A red stretch bolero tops a black stretch tank dress. A bareback white halter dress molds to the body like second skin. A short, zip-front jacket, in black or red, teams with a matching elastic skirt. Even Hardwick's few non-stretch linen dresses stick to the body because they are made with long zippers that snake all the way up the side. It's a no-frills look, priced from $75 to $150.
The most inventive show of the week was designer Betsey Johnson's production of "Our Gang." Johnson danced on stage while models paraded the latest versions of her witty clothes, which are perennial favorites of the young-at-heart.
This season, her long-torso dresses, some of them off the shoulder, sprouted tiered or ruffled skirts in either mini or low-calf lengths. Huge flower prints, small prints, dots, stripes and solid bright dresses and separates were accessorized with cats and jewelry made of detergent boxes, Band-Aid cans, kitchen sponges and rubber gloves.
Without the gimmicks, these delightful simple shapes will be found in junior departments of better stores and at Johnson's own shops on Melrose and in Venice. Prices range from $50 to $150.