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THE SPRING COLLECTION / NEW YORK : California Dreamin'

November 03, 1994|DEBRA GENDEL | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

NEW YORK — Seventh Avenue's idea of a man-killer is a stiletto-heeled amazon in a bikini and a bathrobe who waves her cigarette and walks that walk.

Sound like any cinema vixen you know? See if this helps: At Isaac Mizrahi's show Tuesday, an electronic ticker tape warned the audience to "Fasten Your Seat Belts . . . It's Going to Be a Bumpy Night."

And should anyone miss the reference to Bette Davis' saucy prediction in "All About Eve," Mizrahi named outfits for Hollywood divas Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich and Betty Grable.

He's not the only one captivated by '40s film imagery. In one of those group impulses that cynics love to cite as evidence of a sinister fashion conspiracy, every designer from Marc Jacobs to Geoffrey Beene has paid homage in their spring '95 collections this week to cinema glamour.

The trend dovetails nicely with the current nostalgia for all things '70s--which, you may or may not recall, was also a time of a '40s revival. Why another one? Why not? There's a cheerful lady-likeness to many of the designers' lines, which hit home when a model at the Mizrahi show strode down the runway wearing a demure, white lace bra underneath a crisp, sheer white blouse. It looked so . . . new. As did Donna Karan's Sunday-go-to-church rayon dresses for her DKNY line.

Retro is a tricky thing, though. What saves it from looking like costume design is the execution. Richard Tyler's suits for Anne Klein, for example, won't be mistaken for vintage--the geometric prints, weaves and textures could have been made only with today's technology.

Nor will anything from Todd Oldham's "When Worlds Collide" collection. His seamed and piped cowgirl jackets with cabbage rose trim don't look like any cowgirl this side of a Hollywood rodeo.

What also makes this particular backward-glancing trend look modern is a healthy dose of irreverence. With that in mind, the envelope, please:

Best Editing: Christian Francis Roth. His girlish collection was filled with charmingly appliqued jackets in colors favored by Gen Xers--orange, yellow, green--in childlike tableaux. Goofy flowers, lollipops, little duckies. He never digressed from his pre-pubescent vision.

Best Score: Nicole Miller opened her Halloween night show with "Monster Mash," followed by "I Put a Spell On You." Favorite single at the shows is "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon." The younger designers play the latest remake. Everyone else plays the Neil Diamond version.

Best Screenplay: The program at Badgley Mischka was in the form of a script. Let's hope the heroine has a place to wear those drop-dead beaded corsets.

Best Costume: Carolina Herrera's evening gowns gave new meaning to a tired but useful Hollywood phrase: "Over the top."

Best Actress: Model Tyra Banks is Jessica Rabbit.

Best Supporting Actress: At Todd Oldham's show on Tuesday night, the glamorous Nadja Auermann wore a sequined skirt with a T-shirt that proclaimed "Nadja." Just in case we didn't know.

Best Short Subject: Even though most skirts and dresses settled around the bottom of the knee, designers have not ruled out the mini as an option. The winner in this category? Oldham's six-inch swath of silvery metal mesh knotted sarong-style and perhaps destined to be worn by celebrity fans in the audience, like, say, Susan Sarandon or Rosie O'Donnell. On second thought. . . .

Best Set Design: How to top the backstage silhouettes Mizrahi showed the audience through a scrim last time? Show everything up front. The first model at the show stood before an oversize mirror as dressers helped her on with her clothes. The next scene was a powder room, which was way more glamorous than anything the models see backstage.

Best Director: Tracy Reese, whose clothes should have as much attitude as her models did. Acting out mini-scenarios with four handsome men, these gorgeous divas could give RuPaul a few lessons.

Best Picture: See Monday's Life & Style.

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