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THE PARTY LINE : Resolve to End the New Year on a Simple New Note That's a Little Bit Wild


Time's running out on 1992, but it's not too late for party girls to find that drop-dead dress, gorgeous blouse or glittering accessory for those end-of-year bashes.

New Year's is the time to go all out with fashions that are fun, flirtatious and just a little bit wild. To be sure, party clothes aren't quite as glitzed-out as they have been in years past. It's the morning after the spend-happy '80s, and one too many sequins is enough to give one a hangover.

Party-goers are abandoning the Vegas show girl look for more elegant evening wear that emphasizes fine fabrics over flash, simplified silhouettes over fussy constructions. And while head-to-toe beading may be on its way out with '92, many party clothes still sparkle like a pale glass of bubbly.

Body-conscious knit separates the color of champagne are just one way to toast the New Year without going overboard. Jakeez' in Fashion Island Newport Beach has gold knitwear in sporty styles such as leggings, tunics and tanks (about $75 to $200) that has a subtle metallic sheen.

"Traditionally, this is the time of year to bring out the glitz. But this year it's different. People want the casual elegance of silk and velvet in lounge pants and halter dresses," said Jakeez' spokeswoman Cynthia Degen.

Jakeez' collection of silk velvets--in deep jewel tones such as ruby and sapphire as well as traditional black--features fluid palazzo pants and flowing scoop-neck dresses unadorned by sequins, lace or other trim.

"People want that clean, simple look," Degen said. "They just want to feel there's some glitz going on without overkill."

A simple red halter gown of red crepe has just the right amount of glitter, with a high-neck collar embroidered in gold and set with big faux cabachon rubies ($638).

Yet there's proof that some glitz is never out of place around the holidays. Jakeez' short chemise with tiger stripes set in matte gold and silver sequins ($821) has been one of the hottest dresses of the season.

A short ballerina skirt made of jewel-toned taffetas makes an ideal New Year's tog. Aptly named the flirt skirt, it's for girls who just want to have fun.

"It's not serious," says Marty Barrett, manager of the Giorgio Beverly Hills boutique in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. "You can interpret the trend according to your whim and whimsy." The skirts can be paired with a conservative blouse or bustier. Giorgio carries flirt skirts by Andromeda in sapphire, ruby, emerald and black ($156).

Another noisemaker: Form-fitting bodysuits that mold perfectly to the torso, thanks to designer Josie Natori's background in lingerie. There's a gold-pleated surplice that wraps softly in front ($98) or black, mesh long-sleeved bodysuit with woven flecks of silver ($68). Both easily adapt to an existing wardrobe, whether worn with black velvet stretch leggings or a cocktail suit.

"The metallic adds a touch of subtle elegance. You're not announcing, 'I'm here!' " Barrett says. "Plus you can roll these into the teeniest little ball if you're traveling on New Year's. They come out perfect."

Many women are turning to ball gowns with billowy skirts for making grand entrances at formal bashes. Two examples of the genre: a gown with a strapless bodice paved in multicolored crystals with a dramatic full skirt of purple taffeta ($970) and a festive gown with a long-sleeved top and peplum covered in green, gold and burgundy paisley beading with a full emerald taffeta skirt ($1,300), at Devon Becke in Fashion Island, Brea Mall and MainPlace/Santa Ana.

"The '40s era has influenced fashion a lot. We're seeing a lot of long, glamorous dresses," said Ramin Hajipour, manager of Devon Becke in Fashion Island.

Taking their cue from what men wear to parties, women are wearing variations of the classic tuxedo as the menswear influence makes itself felt in evening wear.

"We're seeing a lot of tuxedo jackets with vests and men's trousers," says Bill Christiansen, owner of Rakish in Orange.

Rakish carries a classic fingertip-length double-breasted wool tuxedo jacket with silk satin lapel ($800) inspired by the '30s. Those who want to play it straight can don tuxedo trousers with satin stripes down the legs or substitute a long slim skirt with a thigh-high slit. The classic tuxedo shirt is the inspiration for a sexy backless white halter with winged collar ($350).

Women worried that they'll look too much like their dates can skip the tux and simply add a fancy vest of gold and black French lace that can also be worn inside out to show off the black satin lining ($668).

Sparkling accessories add a finishing touch of frivolity.

With the new emphasis on the neck, chokers are back in style. Giorgio has chokers made of one to five strands of pearls, crystals and multicolored Venetian beads (about $100 to $300).

"People have resistance to chokers. Some say, 'Oh I don't have the neck for those,' but we tell them everyone can wear these looks as long as they keep things in proportion," Barrett says.

"We have one choker that's just a single strand of tiny Austrian crystals. It looks like tiny raindrops dripping down the neck."

Another hot accessory: tiny evening bags worn around the wrist like a bracelet.

The small silk purses come in a variety of colors and attach to a hammered gold bangle, stretch mesh or charm bracelet and start at about $100 at Giorgio. They're just large enough to hold a lipstick, car key and theater ticket.

"But they're not going to hold your checkbook," Barrett says.

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