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By Design | FASHION / SENSE OF STYLE

One Bad Lapel and It's History

September 05, 1996|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

Trend-bunnies and lovers of novelty, read no further. True fools for fashion briefly bask in each new style breeze, making no distinction between things that are flattering, comfortable or practical and those that are merely chic.

But fashion-conscious women who live in the real world should know that while the best of the new fall looks succeed in making most of us appear taller, thinner and as commanding as a "Star Trek" heroine, a few potentially unflattering and economically unsound style traps inhabit the stores.

A jacket or coat is usually a high-ticket item. Each becomes more desirable when supported by shopping rationalization No. 51: A great tailored piece can serve in a variety of situations. The surest way to shorten the shelf life of such a garment is with oddly shaped lapels.

Mutant lapels inspired by the '70s will likely prompt a "What was I thinking?" a year from now, thereby nullifying shopping rationalization No. 52: It will last a long time. Watch out for extremes--anything too rounded, too pointy, too big or too small may lose its appeal by the time you've paid off your credit card.

"A notched or small, peaked lapel is a classic and it won't date clothing," master tailor Richard Tyler says. "Even if a notched lapel is wide, you can always narrow it and not alter the cut of the jacket. The shoulder width really determines the width of a lapel. When you see a jacket with small shoulders and a wide lapel, the proportions are totally off. When the details are gimmicky or fussy, you know you're not going to like it next season, and good clothing is so expensive that you really can't afford to buy something that's a whim for the moment."

You could literally step into another fall pitfall. The Mary Jane is back in force now, sometimes with platforms and especially rising on towering, chunky heels. It stands to reason that a style that mimics a child's party uniform would lean toward the precious. These shoes can be interesting, possibly cute in a girlish sort of way, and work with the 1920s mood of some romantically costumey clothes just beginning to appear.

But if the strap lands in the wrong place, it visually bisects the leg, making it look shorter and wider. (The fat-ankled need not apply.) The few inches between the instep and the anklebone can make all the difference. A higher ankle strap looks automatically more grown-up, feminine in a dangerous sort of way, echoing the line of an ankle bracelet.

So the next time you see a pair of T-strapped shoes, remember, your mother always has your best interests at heart. Sadly, not all designers do.

*

The Shining: Francois Nars is among the elite corps of makeup artists who transform skinny young women into breathtaking mistresses of the runways of Paris and Milan. At Gianni Versace's fall show, he made the models' cheek and brow bones glimmer with coppery highlights. We expect to see bronzed faces in summer, but Nars says, "The whole concept of fall and spring makeup is completely over. A lot of designers have completely broken the barriers between seasons, and that has given everyone more freedom."

The beautifully sun-kissed effect, on view at the Gucci and Chanel shows as well, is now easy to achieve through Nars' bronzing stick, available at Barneys. A magical beauty wand would be multipurpose, easy to use and virtually mistake-proof. The $32 Multiple bronzer, in four shades, satisfies those criteria. Nars says the creamy, transparent color can be applied anywhere, and is meant to be smeared on and blended with no more elaborate a tool than one's fingers. "I think using the same color on cheeks, eyes and lips gives a kind of uniformity to the face and it's very modern," he says.

* Sense of Style appears Thursdays in Life & Style.

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