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Dressing in Style . . . on a Budget : Three Designers Show Off Fashions to Be Had for Less . . . the Edwardian Dandy Resurfaces as a Favorite for Fall

March 31, 1993|MARY ROURKE | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

NEW YORK — Dressing for less is what the first shows in the fall fashion week here have been all about.

Byron Lars, Nicole Miller and Jennifer George, three moderate-price labels, were among the first collections previewed here on Monday. All three designers are known for getting a grip on their creative urges and ensuring that price tags are less than $500--most of the time. And while they aren't exactly giving clothes away, their prices are approximately half what the best-known names in New York fashion command.

Lars thought of Heidi for his fall line and came up with a Swiss Miss sampler filled with wit and whimsy. A serenade by an Alpine horn, some 20 feet long, started the show. And Lars built a stage set that resembled a vast cuckoo clock. When the clock struck the hour, models swung through the doors like the carved figures on a . . . Swiss you-know-what.

Using more than just stage props and visual puns, Lars unveiled some spirited alternatives to the standard dress-for-success look. Black Leatherette short shorts were paired with a matching jacket, which had a real Alpine feel, thanks to white top stitching, a shearling-like collar and silver buttons shaped like goat horns.

A skating dress, fitted through the waist with a short, flared skirt, was actually a cable-knit sweater in a new form. Tyrolean braid trimmed the pockets of a green and brown plaid jacket that topped a long, tight skirt. Red velveteen corsets covered Swiss embroidered blouses, and yodeler's-style suspenders topped brown vinyl shorts. Grandfather shirts dotted with edelweiss went over flared pants.

Most outfits included a Bavarian hat with what looked like a shaving brush tucked under a gold braid hat band. Or a soft, dome-shaped hat like the Seven Dwarfs might wear for a mountain climb.

In a more serious, even cerebral vein, Joseph Abboud showed real leather vests--shearling-lined--over popcorn stitch tunics and big, wool gauze skirts for Connecticut country weekends. His brown leather parka, cable-stitch pullover and matching muffler, narrow tweed pants, and Timberland-like hiking boots were other ingredients for a casual, rich look.

Weekend wear was the strength of this collection, but some shirtlike suit jackets over ample gauze skirts or narrow tweed pants kept the country feeling alive as an office option.

Nicole Miller's costume trunk collection opened with black sports jackets embroidered with Chinese characters for an East-meets-West effect.

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Edwardian dandies, already a favorite theme emerging for fall, inspired Miller's cutaway coats. Hers came in extra-wide stripes and were worn over stretchy silk tube skirts in plum and black stripes.

Another vintage fashion twist came with the Morticia Addams evening dresses with trumpet sleeves to cover your fingers. Keeping modern times in mind, Miller's red shirt dress with a drop waist and flounced hem was a fresh, young look. She paired it with lace-up, platform heel boots.

Top hats gave a funky finish to evening outfits, especially a penguin printed bodysuit with a short, handkerchief-hem skirt. For day, a cardigan coat with matching shirt, both decorated with a parade of penguins that toddled across the shoulders, got the top-hat treatment, too.

Norma Kamali used some of the same ideas for her latest fashion fantasies. Trumpet sleeves covered the models' fingers, especially on Kamali's black silk evening dresses with soft ruffles at the hem. A black beaded tunic slithered over a long velvet dress for another evening sparkler.

Leopard print played a leading role in this costume-y collection. Leopard print cut-away coats topped matching pants, a black velvet cocoon coat had a leopard collar so deep it hid the model's face. Leopard print helmets helped conjure scenes from "The Cotton Club" and "The Great Gatsby."

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Jennifer George tried a new way of showing a fashion collection. In a second-story room of the neoclassic New York Public Library, she installed mannequins wearing her latest styles and let viewers come close--after picking up a cup of tea and some fresh-baked cookies. A jazz band supplied the music for the walk-through.

For understated evening wear, this lover of low-key style showed a gray rib-knit skirt and oversized, shirtlike jacket. Both had gray satin piping. Among strong day looks was a moss-green wool jersey tunic that dipped to points on the sides, worn over narrow pants.

George relies on simple shapes but always adds a touch of artistry, or understated glamour. It is a formula that makes her a favorite among the best special stores in the country.

Bill Blass kept to his formula, too. Nothing understated about his brand of glamour. A bold red redingote with yellow stitching at the button holes topped a white silk poet's shirt with ruffled neckline and cuffs. He showed it with pants tucked into tall, black pirate boots.

A shrimp-colored jacket with just a suggestion of a ruffle at the hem topped brown velvet pants. Blass avoided skirts for day.

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