NEW YORK — When top designers like Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta show a collection, they put more than their clothes on view. In a sense, they are offering their versions of how the good life ought to be lived. And in the case of Lauren and De la Renta, both of whom showed on Wednesday, two very different philosophies emerged.
Lauren has never gone in for glitter. For fall his outlook is joyously simple and purified to an exquisite degree. He has spent lots of time recently on his ranch in the West, where the verities of life may have struck him thunderously. If you, too, lead an opulently casual life this man has what you need. Snow-color shearling vests, toggle coats and jackets are tossed over black cashmere sweaters and pants. Twin sweater sets in luscious shades of pink, red, blue or tangerine team with supple suede pants that are dyed to match. The designer has two basic pant shapes for fall. One has wide legs, the other has narrow legs that taper slightly for a wearable version of the legging look.
His collection is heavy on classic shades of navy, camel and gray for suits with beautifully shaped, soft-shoulder blazers and a variety of matching pants or skirts. The colors may be traditional, but the shapes are modern and the cloth featherweight, lending a certain streamlined buoyancy to even the most simple business-suit styles.
Evenings in Black
Lauren's evening wear is mostly black and unpretentious in the extreme. A black crepe pantsuit takes a sheer chiffon blouse with a bit of glitter at the high neckline. Long, slim gowns have bias-cut skirts, high fronts and are bare to the waistline in back. For the most casual dress-up of all, a pair of gray trousers (stolen from a pantsuit) is enlivened by a short, pale satin jacket that shimmers from shoulders to waist.
Certain kinds of women, many of them living in the West, will appreciate Lauren's bold understatement about fashion life in the '80s. Even those who can't afford his clothes may want to buy his attitude. Lauren's show ended on such a high note that the designer wound up dancing in the aisles with his models, while the audience of buyers and press applauded in time to the musical beat.
Oscar de la Renta, on the other hand, is a creature of urban social life. His women dress to the teeth for lunch and dinner at all the in places, often inviting him along to share the fun. It's natural that his daytime skirts, dresses, suits and coats should be sculpted to the nth degree, with high waistlines and slim skirts that show off trim bodies and shoulders that erupt into little poufs like exclamation points. A beautiful, double-face taupe wool suit, for example, has a slim skirt, a long jacket that closes at one side, and exclamatory shoulders that puff at the top before descending into long narrow sleeves.
Black dresses, in crepe or velvet, have illusion net shoulders and are sometimes draped across the front of the skirt. Most outfits end just above the knee. Suit jackets in bright wool are ornamented with black braid trimming, and ball gowns, often with billowing taffeta skirts and belled sleeves, are decorated with brilliant embroideries or brocade.
De la Renta believes in pants for daytime and evening, and he is successful on both counts. His evening versions, in paper-thin silk taffeta, look more like floor-length skirts. They rustle gracefully as the wearer walks. A particularly beautiful evening outfit is composed of a brown, long-sleeve, chiffon T-shirt with horizontal stripes of brown sequins over a brown iridescent taffeta divided skirt that hits the floor. The designer uses brilliant color juxtaposed with neutrals or black and white. His collection is a celebration of the lush life for women who enjoy elaborate clothes.
Gloria Steinem and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's wife, Matilda, showed up at Mary Ann Restivo's fall show Wednesday afternoon. Steinem wore an above-the-knee skirt and Cuomo's was a bit longer. Both applauded the designer's short black coatdresses, slim-skirted navy suits with dotted silk blouses and her red or black jersey dresses with mid-calf-length skirts. Jumpsuits showed up here as they do almost everywhere in town for fall. And a very popular Restivo suit look teamed a chalk-striped Spencer jacket with matching wide-leg pants. Restivo's fall prices range from $150 to $500 at stores like Nordstrom, Bullock's and Robinson's.
Peppy Fall Knits
Adrienne Vittadini's affordable clothes looked peppy and wearable for fall. Argyle knits topped the list here, in sweater and skirt outfits or long cardigans over solid dresses. Vittadini teamed dots with checks in a series of skirts or pants ensembles and offered a handsome view of pantsuits with elongated jackets and slim trousers. Chemise dresses and skirts were above the knee.
Arnold Scaasi didn't show any pants at all. And except for bright wool capes with matching slim dresses, he concentrated almost solely on evening wear. Bright taffetas with bare shoulders and full, floor-length skirts had lots of pleats or draping and were appropriate for every female relative of the bride. Some of the dresses were accompanied by long, satin evening wraps.
Ronaldus Shamask, a talented young designer, has a growing audience for his elegantly unruffled styles. His rubberized, featherweight gray raincoat sailed above an ivory poet's blouse tucked into navy legging-like pants. Another ivory evening blouse, with a petal-like collar, was shown with gray taffeta cummerbund and gray silk tapered pants. Everything in the collection is soft and slouchy, colored predominantly in shades of mouse gray, navy or ivory. Fitted dresses in black velvet or silk have hemlines both above and below the knee.