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THE FALL COLLECTIONS: PARIS : Coming Back in Good Form : Finally, a few fresh looks heralded by colors as deep as jewels. Looks that can go day or night--and the season's must: a jacket.

March 23, 1993|MARY ROURKE | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

PARIS — Say this much for Chanel fashion shows--they are never predictable. In the past, there have been sequined Chanel wet suits, Gap Goes Chanel jeans jackets, men's briefs with the Chanel logo on the waistband and other little ditties to take home and dream about.

This time, Karl Lagerfeld, who designs the collection, tossed a few more surprises at the audience, starting with high tops. They looked like the inflatable type, pumped up to the point of bursting. These sneakers, and some white quilted ski boots and Chanel long johns, were typical of the camouflage he uses every season to disguise some extremely wearable clothes.

Lagerfeld showed a dozen different styles of jackets, but he put them over big white shirts worn untucked, half-buttoned and wrinkly. Sometimes he added a bicycle-chain belt with a padlock attached. And nothing but pale gray long johns and those pumped-up high tops completed most outfits.

Still, the message was strong: If you want to buy one great item for fall, get a jacket. The newest were waist-length with clear sequins that shimmered like raindrops on warm blue, green or red wool. A long, narrow jacket in textured navy velour had slightly flared sleeves. A knee-length redingote got the hippie grunge treatment with a hand-crocheted shawl over the shoulders.

Tweed vest and jacket sets were another fresh look for day. Many went over narrow moss green pants tucked into tall flat-heel boots.

A sleeveless dress with a corset-like bodice and a short, bell-shaped skirt came in black leather for day and silk crepe for evening.

In keeping with the subtler mood that is influencing fashion here, most Chanel looks for fall could go day or night. Among the newest options were deep jewel-toned velvet pantsuits, with jackets in one color and pants in another.

For evenings out or at home, a white shirt worn with a floor-length black velvet skirt was a reminder of a basic lesson in dressing with style. If money is tight, remember black and white.

Romeo Gigli's fall collection appeared to be plucked from the closets of rich, Edwardian bankers. Tweed and pin-stripe pantsuits, high-button vests and bowler hats gave the dandy look an Italian twist.

Gigli did what must be done for the look to be flattering on women. He softened it with unequivocally feminine details, starting with the shape of the jackets. They were gently defined at the waist and dipped longer in back for a graceful silhouette.

For pants, Gigli relied on his signature style: they were all narrow and ankle baring, with deep cuffs. He put rich crochet on jacket collars, used earth-tone, ethnic print shirts and added stone-like strands of beads.

Issey Miyake is the archer of French fashion. His fleet-footed collection for fall would let any woman move with swift, unencumbered steps. A pantsuit by Miyake is a crystal pleated archer's jacket with narrow pants, both in a shimmering cocoa color.

His day-into-evening dress is a graceful A-line shape in black with a pewter color band at the hips and one at the hem. It has a double skirt, and the top layer works as a shawl.

Everything in this collection looks as if it would fit into a handbag and come out ready to wear. Miyake has a genius for capturing the future and bringing it back to the present.

Yves Saint Laurent brought back velvet pants for day and mixed them with tweed jackets. Marine blue velvet with pale green tweed was a particularly appealing color combination. His relaxed evening wear included a scarlet satin shirtdress, belted at the waist, that gracefully flowed to the ankles. A simple black velvet dress with a softly draped neckline and a narrow satin belt was a perfect piece of work.

As usual, nothing new was added to the Saint Laurent glossary. But when the designer took his bow, appearing to be in good form, he got one of the very few standing ovations of this fashion season.

In general, what does a woman need to know about dressing for fall?

* Most skirts are ankle-length and best left for weekends or evenings.

* Pants are the option most designers prefer for work; if you want to wear a skirt to the office, knee-length is best.

* Colors are deep as a primeval forest or an antique jewel.

* Romantic dressing, inspired by pirates and 19th-Century poets, is the newest look.

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