California designers are mad about suspenders, plaids, aprons, snug little jackets and sweaters, fanny-grazing skirts, boot-topping skirts, pants, berets and vests.
They are also mad about faux fur, earth tones, long cardigan jackets, over-the-knee stockings, flowing white shirts, updated peacoats, shiny surfaces, hot pants, fanciful layering and melding patterns.
In fact, fall fashion, as seen on Los Angeles runways last weekend, is a mix master's dream and a reminder that, in a time of designer options, consumers have a choice--to be fashionably conservative or wildly creative. Both extremes surfaced in a round of shows staged by the California Mart and the New Mart.
At the Variety Arts Center Saturday night, Van Buren designers Maggie Barry and Ty Moore proved once again that they can dish up degrees of pizazz. First on the runway after a confidence-building preamble by Mayor Richard Riordan ("People look to L.A. for what's exciting, what's new, what's next"), their collection included an itty-bitty three-piece leather aviatrix suit. Patterned leggings and high-vamped suede shoes made its fanny-grazing skirt more wearable. In contrast, a black Lycra gown trimmed with red patent-leather panels and suspenders dazzled without revealing too much.
Evening wear was in short supply and notable for its understated sex appeal. Theresa McAllen for Antony Moorcroft showed a tiny slip dress with spaghetti straps and a thin row of top and bottom lace. It was worn with two fall musts--black thigh-high stockings and shiny black lace-up ankle boots. From Rated R/Biya came a stunning long black sleeveless dress banded in satin from knee to hem. The next night, its designer, Biya Ramar, wore the dress as street wear, with clunky boots and a jacket.
If Ramar is any indication, boot-topping dresses and skirts will be back on the streets this fall. Vying for importance with very short dresses, they swept across four stages and came from such designers as David Dart and Tatiana Ruda, who showed at the New Mart. Dart's long, slim shadow floral in black on mocha was soft, simple and starkly dramatic. The Tiar collection by Ruda had its own brand of drama, including a long dress in distressed, uneven layers of khaki rayon, topped with a black crocheted tunic.
Theresa McAllen, this time as designer for Johnny Was, combined a long, slim-line flax-colored dress with a contrasting plaid apron and a black velveteen jacket. Janice Levin for Poleci showed a long, side-tied, slate-colored pinafore dress over a matching cropped, ribbed-jersey top that doubled as a jacket. And L. Bates showed one of the more sophisticated versions of long and lean. Her fitted wool-gabardine jacket in plum was worn over a sailor-front, flared skirt.
Marian Clayden's classy collection featured exquisite panne velvet tunics, coats and scarfs floating over long black chiffon dresses--or pants. For women tired of the up-down skirt issue, pants from Clayden and others could be the answer. The freshest shapes are slim but not tight, often in wheat-colored tweeds or one of the browns, from faded bark to mocha. They hit the ankle or slightly above, with and without cuffs, to reveal short boots.
In a big season for knits, Chatillon's Anna Dodet used French acrylics for a collection of sexy jumpers, shorts, little dresses, jackets and flared skater skirts. Daniel Norzagaray for Cielo showed the requisite cropped sweater, worn in layers: over a white T-shirt and under a jacket as long as the super-short skater-style skirt underneath. The outfit appeared in a favorite combo of wheat and white.
The baby-doll silhouette lives on as a knit, looking sophisticated and versatile in the hands of Misc. designer Janet Howard, who offered a ribbed cotton version in forest green. She also reworked the vest, turning it into a short jacket to wear over a swing dress.
Howard's golden consumer rule is simple: "Not to make the clothes look like the '80s. I don't see short with suntan nylons and high heels." Howard pictures her short dresses and skirts worn over seamed leggings, textured tights, even pants.