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Field and Street

January 28, 1994|MARY ROURKE

It's nothing like the earthquake, in which two mountain ranges tried to meet. But there is a definite groundswell in the fashion world as two dress styles try to merge.

In the ongoing quest for comfort, people have come up with something new. And designers have lifted it from city streets onto their runways.

Soon, social doyens could be wearing sports bras under their Chanel suits. Business executives might slip golf skirts under double-breasted blazers. The idea is to squeeze as much athletic sportswear as possible into an everyday wardrobe.

The spring collections in Paris and New York were crowded with clothes made for gymnasts, skiers and Rollerbladers. Mixed with traditional skirts, suits and jackets, they could fit in anywhere.

Athletic isn't the first look that comes to mind when you think of Chanel or Ralph Lauren. But as fashion evolves toward more relaxed ways, ready-to-wear designers, like everyone else, are looking at active wear with new eyes.

"It's kind of like what happened to white T-shirts," recalls Anna Sui, one of New York's newer, trend-setting names. "They used to be considered men's underwear, then suddenly they became incorporated into everybody's daily wardrobe."

Sui featured silver sweat pants and track-suit jackets as evening wear in her latest show. The line will arrive next month at her Los Angeles shop. She suggests pairing the sweat pants with a white jacket as a dinner option. "Sports and sports activities are such a part of our lives now," she reasons. "We're spoiled by the comfort of those clothes."

Designers may be showing their versions of active wear, but most people will probably buy the real thing. "People want what is authentic," says Mary McGoldrick, director of design for textiles at Adidas. "The real thing is the right thing."

This season, she re-created the classic Adidas track suit from the early '70s, in sport colors with a white triple stripe down the sides. McGoldrick updated it by tapering the shape for a more fitted look. It has made the pages of every major fashion magazine as a must-have item for the new crossover look--a track suit and a white Oxford-cloth shirt.

Adding one new thing to an aging wardrobe will always give it a spin. This spring, check the sporting-goods store while you're at it.

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