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Summertime Hues : What's Black Or White And Hot All Over? Clingy Couture Gives Off Glimpses Of Cool Skin For Sultry Nights

June 25, 1993

Judging by the body-conscious looks of the latest evening wear, it's going to be a hot summer.

Designers are turning up the heat with things that cling, bare silhouettes and anything sheer, calling attention to bodies that glow from an afternoon at the beach.

What looks cool on a hot summer night? Slinky tube dresses, back-baring halters and soft ruffled blouses with see-through sleeves are just the thing for cocktail parties and night clubs.

The hottest color for these revealing styles: black.

Once an unpopular choice for summer, black shows no signs of fading in the heat. It's all over pant suits, stretchy Lycra cocktail dresses and form-fitting sculpted jackets. Those who really want to stand out can find sparkling gowns and cocktail dresses that are sapphire blue or firecracker red.

Summer's nighttime attire comes in fabrics that are lighter than those used in fall and winter collections. Sheer chiffon, lace, silk, blended linens and silk keep the body cool.

One fresh look for a balmy evening is a crisp white blouse with see-through chiffon sleeves or a sheer back. La Galleria in Tustin has several examples of the sheer white blouse, including one with an embroidered front ($198) that can go with a simple black crepe pant ($120) or tea-length sarong ($158).

"You can go more sheer, more bare in summer," says Becky Casenhiser, owner of La Galleria. "Certain necklines, especially halters and portrait collars that sit off the shoulder, are very strong in summer because they give that bare look."

The view is often more revealing from the back.

"There are a lot of crisscross backs, keyholes and draped backs where the fabric falls from the shoulders into a deep V. We're seeing the draped back in gowns, dresses and suits. It's very elegant, and it still covers the arms," Casenhiser says.

With the higher temperatures, women can throw off their jackets and reveal those slinky bodysuits they've been keeping under wraps all winter. Although they may not offer much more coverage than a bathing suit, bodysuits can be worn on warm evenings thanks to elegant details.

La Galleria has a black halter style with a twist neck that fastens in front with a sleek gold knot ($118), while another halter has a keyhole front outlined in rhinestones ($218).

Not everyone wants to be so revealing. For modesty's sake, La Galleria has cocktail suits with split backs, half-backs or keyholes that can be inset with layers of chiffon for any degree of coverage (about $1,000 to $1,500), available by order in 72 colors of silk.

One short white dress with a built-in black lace bustier has a fitted white jacket with a low scoop neck that shows off the top ($590).

"If a gown is strapless or a halter, we'll show it with a short bolero jacket so the shape of the waist still shows," Casenhiser said.

There's no shortage of ways to show some skin.

Designer Todd Oldham created a long, full skirt made of a colorful patchwork of striped silks that is split in front to reveal matching hot pants, available at Roberta's in Newport Beach. The ensemble ($1,600) features a short beaded vest that can be worn with or without a blouse.

"It's dramatic and cool for summer," says Mona Angell, manager of Roberta's.

Bob Mackie designed what she calls "a hot little fuchsia dress," a short strapless number ($1,190) covered in red bugle beads and hot pink sequins, also at Roberta's.

"In summer you can have more fun. Winter's a little more formal," Angell says.

While not nearly as popular as black, white is still prevalent in summer because "when you get a tan it stands out so great," Angell says. One Marilyn Monroe-inspired halter dress by Travilla ($1,400) features accordion pleats made of white satin and gold beaded trim at Roberta's.

Pants will be especially important for summer evenings, according to Georgette Rubin, co-owner of Lillie Rubin in Miami, with a store in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa.

"Pants come in all styles--some wide-legged, some bell, and some slightly bell," Rubin says.

They, too, reveal the body in new ways. One fitted pair of black Lycra pants at Lillie Rubin has wide bells made of fleur-de-lis eyelet lace; a matching jacket has lace sleeves that flare at the wrist ($490 for the outfit). There's also palazzo pants made of sheer chiffon with a matching blouse that has full sleeves and a mock lace vest ($570 for the outfit), and tight black lace pants that accompany a shaped crepe vest ($480).

"This year fashions are more feminine, more sexy. A lot are black with Lycra that molds the body," Rubin says. "It's going to be hot."

And she's not talking weather.

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