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Trunks Can Be Treasure Chests


When you are searching for The Dress, the one that will make an evening or a season of afternoons as perfect as clothes ever can, it isn't always enough to find it. Sometimes, you have to see every other dress in existence too, just to make sure that your chosen one is truly the best.

Such shopping insecurity usually abates with advancing age and growing confidence, but the compulsion to canvass the marketplace can periodically return, like a nasty virus. And when it does, it's frustrating to know that even the best stores choose a relatively small collection from a designer's wares. The trusting soul would value the store buyer's discerning eye, the control freak (and we know who we are) wants access to everything.

The in-store trunk show is heaven to the shopper who desires comprehensive, in-person knowledge of designer offerings. On specific days, department stores or boutiques present a designer's entire line, inviting customers to order any style, even if the store will not be stocking it. Since such trunk shows generally take place before a retail season, you may have to decide in July what you'll be wearing in November.

You won't be disappointed if that pinstriped pantsuit that caught your eye sells out in your size. (And in most stores, you aren't obligated to buy an item if you cancel the order before it arrives.) Since fabric supplies are often finite, preventing reorders, the trunk show is an antidote to she who hesitates. . . .

It isn't just that certain styles get snapped up quickly, especially in popular sizes. According to a Giorgio Armani representative, "Many of the special pieces shown on the runway never even hit the [store's] floor. They're all reserved at trunk shows. We might have 20 of a hot style in various sizes, but there'll be a waiting list of 65 for them." So the customer who strolls into the boutique when a hint of autumn is in the air, in the mood to try on the man-tailored suit she saw in an ad, may be out of luck.

A trunk show also offers a look at a designer's complete line; a single outfit can't possibly convey a designer's vision the way 75 do. And while you may take home only one find, seeing a complete line helps you make an informed selection.

Designer Alberta Ferretti, for example, didn't abandon the spring theme of gentle femininity when many of her Milanese colleagues went in a tougher, more tailored direction for fall. At her trunk show on Tuesday, her success in creating fragile dresses that don't go all gooey in their delicacy will be evident when the details--a white batiste slip peeking through the slit of a long, navy wool skirt or an embroidered chiffon skirt paired with a rough sweater--are on display.

At some trunk shows, models wander through the store, wearing the clothes as they were meant to be worn, and videos and photo albums of shows presented on the runways of Milan, Paris and New York are shown. But even without such visual aids, salespeople have usually been schooled in the collection's fine points.

As a regular at fashion shows, I'm often disappointed to see the meager choices from designers available in stores. For any woman who cares either about a specific designer, or about understanding and interpreting fashion for herself, trunk shows are an invaluable service.


A sampling of trunk shows featuring fall clothes, E2

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