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VALLEY VOGUE / CINDY LaFAVRE YORKS : The Long and Short of It All : Trends run from outrageous rubber dresses to conservative hemlines. The active-wear look is very active.

August 12, 1994|CINDY LaFAVRE YORKS | Cindy LaFavre Yorks writes regularly about fashion for The Times

Rarely in a fashion season have two distinct approaches to newness been so at odds. Trends run wildly across the spectrum, from outrageous rubber dresses--yes RUBBER, break out the heavy-duty antiperspirant--to conservative, knee-length skirts.

One of the most wearable--and popular--trends emerging in the San Fernando Valley for fall is the active-wear look popularized by New York designers Donna Karan and Anna Sui, among others. Fred Levine, who owns two M Fredric & Co. boutiques in Sherman Oaks and Studio City and a third active-wear-centered store in Encino, says the ultra-sport looks are flying out of the stores.

"Fleece and French terry two-piece jumpers, dresses, and anything with the Adidas-style stripe through it, those are the things that are really selling now," he says.

Valley shoppers looking for rubber and vinyl numbers for fall should concentrate on department stores such as Nordstrom to deliver the goods. Even the area's high-fashion boutiques such as Buffalo Too in Tarzana say they won't be getting them in because they are more of a Westside item.

The rubber styles aren't limited to skin-tight numbers. A-line jumpers, coats and baby-doll silhouettes prevail. But there are just as many breath-hampering tank dresses and skin-tight rubber minis around for those less interested in swing-line styles.

Staying dry will be even harder if the new cropped-mohair sweaters soar to the top of the fall must-have list, as fashion experts are predicting. Crushed, printed velvet and chenille separates serve as less toasty--and less expensive--alternatives for Valley fashion types, who will find these looks at Nordstrom in Topanga Plaza.

The absence of texture is almost as important as its presence. Complementing the tactile mohair pieces are silk Charmeuse blouses and satin separates. Most frequently, these cropped tops--occasionally baring a little midriff--are being paired with very short skirts.

Women looking to infuse their wardrobes with some trendiness, without going overboard with the "sex kitten" mohair looks, might prefer to indulge in menswear-inspired ensembles. The three-piece pantsuit--a vest, mid-length jacket and narrow pant--is shaping up to be one of fall's most wearable looks, says Nordstrom's June Rau, fashion director for the Los Angeles region. Other new items ideal for filling out a menswear-style wardrobe: peacoats, argyle patterns, plaids and anything that looks polished or preppy. The kilt--a somewhat geographically androgynous garment--is another of fall's possibilities for women who aren't quite ready for rubber.

As for fall's color palette, icy pastel shades of mint green, lilac and lavender are being paired with a new basic--camel. Black, the other long-standing basic, is being paired with ultra-bright shades of fuchsia and yellow. Chocolate brown, says Rau, is also resurging. Deep cranberry, scarlet, plum and eggplant shades serve as accents to brown, which some are calling the "new black."

The most promising of the tame trends: knee-length skirts that just brush the bottom of the kneecap. For fall, such designers as Calvin Klein and Donna Karan offered a happy medium between ankle-grazing styles and those that challenge office dress codes. Though much ado has been made about whether women will really accept the look, Rau says she believes two distinct types of women will embrace it.

"I think the new length is a good look. A more mature customer who's worn it before will probably wear it again, but I also think it will be worn by the more fashion-forward customers who are always looking for something new," she says.

One such trendsetter is Kathryn Kostelny of Woodland Hills. The former actress and current stay-at-home mom says she's excited about the new lengths. Not only is she retrieving some knee-length skirts out of the back of her closet, she is anxious to add some new styles to her wardrobe.

"I love them, mostly because they are classic and will always be in fashion," she says. Classic perhaps, but always in fashion? With the exception of the blue denim jeans, such a prediction is a precarious guess at best.

*

RAJWEAR'S THE RAGE: The Nehru jacket is back in fashion after two decades of obsolescence. For those a bit foggy on what it was, the button-front jacket with the stand-up collar was a fixture in the closets of groovy dudes in the '70s.

Contemporary incarnations are a natural extension of the popularity currently enjoyed by the banded collar shirt, says Jaime Villablanca, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for I. Magnin. In the Woodland Hills store, as well as other California locales, Villablanca expects the jackets to enjoying ever-increasing popularity, moving into the fall season.

Nehru sport coats are more prevalent than those functioning as components to dress suits, with designers such as Donna Karan, Issey Miyake, Calvin Klein and John Bartlett offering several styles. Prices for designer Nehru jackets average $300 to $400 at I. Magnin.

Men trying to find this look at lower prices will have a hard time. Because the look is so new, more mainstream sources are less willing to gamble on the cutting-edge male with a penchant for fashion. So start saving for one now.

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