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THE SPRING COLLECTIONS / NEW YORK : Something Missing From the Lineup

November 06, 1995|MIMI AVINS

NEW YORK — As the tabloids debate whether the super-models have had their day, has anyone noticed the dearth of women of color on the runways? One or two African Americans are included in lineups of 15 to 20 models in a show, but some major designers have used none at all. And everyone's hair is blown stick straight. The only waves within frizzing distance of the fashion shows were Julia Roberts'; she was back to her wild curls in the audience at Todd Oldham's.

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In Case You Were Wondering: The difference between models and real women is that the professionally gorgeous get no help. Civilians depend on cleavage enhancers and control top pantyhose to create the illusion of perfection. Models are expected to be flawless without such aids. On the runway, they are usually bare legged (not even nude stockings to cover leg bruises or freckles) and seldom wear bras. It does appear as if self-tanning creams, applied to legs, are a major budget item. And one could argue that prior encounters with a plastic surgeon could have contributed to their state of beauty. But why quibble? They are amazing specimens of womanhood.

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Peekaboo: In trying for a cavalier effect, designers have sent their conservative suits down the runway unbuttoned over naked chests. It's inevitable that an unfastened sweater or jacket will fly open as a model walks her walk. The result is above-the-waist frontal nudity, and whoops of appreciation from the photographers' galley. The men and women who capture the shows with video and still cameras are normally silent, but, when there's a flash of bare breasts, boys will be boys.

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The 2G Stop: No, it isn't a new Rollerblade maneuver. One group of photographers routinely waits outside the backstage exit for models to emerge. As model Chrystelle rushed into a waiting taxi, not pausing to pose for them, a veteran explained to his young colleague, "She won't just stop for you to take her picture. That'll cost you $2,000 for a stop."

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Count Your Blessings: The next time you're ready to complain about another boring, 75 and sunny day in paradise, picture a place where women don't dare wear pale suede shoes, where romantic long ivory skirts and khaki silk pants must coexist with mud puddles, where that smart suit you'd planned to promenade in must hide its pizazz under a raincoat. Picture New York. A Parisian's reaction to all the delicate ankle-strapped shoes on the runways there was, "Oh, those are for cities where there aren't any cobble-stoned streets and women get around in their cars." Like Los Angeles.

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