Until last year, Karl Logan refused to own a suit. But when the 38-year-old designer realized "even the trendier young were looking pulled together in matching tops and bottoms," he bought a distinctive suit for himself and put plenty in his fall women's collection.
Logan's commitment to matched glamour is a sign of the times. Amid all the chaos in the world, clothing has turned elegant, polished, organized, calm, cool and collected. Expensive-looking, ultrafeminine suits not only provide fast fashion for busy women, they bring back comforting memories of heiresses and movie goddesses looking like a million in their good-time clothes.
"I think we're all searching for a better time and place--something quieter, safer, easier," says Logan, explaining "the sense of whimsy" in his fall collection. One olive-green suit, for example, is quaintly reminiscent of "a little tin soldier."
"I know I'm fed up with what is going on today," says the designer whose spring collection was the real eye-opener for him. After it was finished, he realized "it had a '30s and '40s flavor. It wasn't a conscious effort, but I had borrowed a lot of things from better days."
Wesley Clay, Robinson's vice president of fashion merchandising, believes "things just aren't the same with the '90s waiting in the wings. People are more apprehensive, not so carefree and definitely concerned with the future.
"If a woman could have only one thing this season, it would be a dinner suit that can be worn from day to evening. It can have a real air of sophistication by day," Clay insists, rattling off a list of possible accessories: "A silk Charmeuse surplice blouse, probably with a shawl collar, an alligator belt, suede pumps, the perfect black kid glove. And reeking with Chanel jewelry."
"There are definitely more rules," notes Patty Fox, fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. "A suit with softened proportions insists on the right shoe, the right bag, the right earring. It makes you think about all the elements, even down to hair and makeup."
She predicts the fall emphasis on dressed-up glamour will have some ramifications: "In daytime, you'll be seeing suits with softer proportions instead of hard-line business suits."
And if the ritzy trend is generated by difficult times, Fox wouldn't be surprised: "Theone thing that kept selling during the Depression was lipstick."
For fall, Bob Mackie was inspired by Hollywood's "foreign adventuresses" like Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. "They were mysterious. You never knew where they were from."
A black crepe suit with a beaded arrow piercing the jacket, from hip to opposite shoulder, is "the kind of suit Dietrich would have had on when she walked into a room." But Mackie mixed metaphors and named the style "Tarzan and the Huntress."
In his holiday collection, a black crepe suit jacket has an eye-catching sheer, beaded back. "Oddly enough, it's safer than a lot of dresses," he says. "A woman could wear it to a restaurant or the theater and not feel overdressed. At the same time, it's special."
"The jacket is the key point," adds Lee Hogan Cass, fashion director for the Broadway. "Without the huge variety--short shaped, long lean, long fitted, short cropped bolero--there would have been no renewed interest in suits."
To Cass, the swing toward dressed-up sophistication is merely "a change. It's what living is all about."
Pearl Nipon, director of design for Albert Nipon, also resists the temptation to tie the trend to the past.
"I don't like retro," she says. A fuchsia wool suit--decorated with satin buttons, half-sash and back bow--illustrates her feelings: "I think it's forward, modernistic. The shape of the suit is new."
And it goes with the current flow: "People finally looked around and said, 'We used to look so pretty, so feminine, so put together,' " Nipon insists. "Now fashion has a much more refined look. It says: 'I'm lovely to look at.' "