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The Next Generation

For Fall, Think Fluid and '40s

April 23, 1998|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

The question that hung in the air at the presentation of Diane Von Furstenberg's fall collection in New York earlier this month was, "What's next?" What's to follow the silk jersey wrap dress, a design so versatile and appealing that it has enjoyed two sales booms, more than 20 years apart?

More zipless tricks, dresses that, the designer explains, "You can get in and out of without any noise."

The next generation of DVF dresses may not be loud, but they'll attract their share of attention. The fluid new styles, made of matte jersey and metallic knit, feature bias cuts and draped and shirred necklines, which sometimes give them a '40s feel. Solid colors, tones of aubergine, mauve, turquoise, raisin and celery, outnumber prints. The printed wrap dresses haven't been abandoned completely, but Von Furstenberg needed to move on with this latest collection and show that she wasn't fashion's cute one-trick pony.

So she replaced the wrap with some faux wraps. Their flattering diagonal lines still hug the body, but no assembly is required. One of the virtues of the wrap dress is its capacity to carry a woman from the office to an evening out. Many of the simple, solid jersey dresses are equally versatile. Sequins are scattered on a charcoal wool jersey dress with the sleeves cut at the season's new length--just below the elbow. With more glitter visible before dark, it isn't exclusively an evening dress, especially if hidden under a jacket or cardigan at work.

Although a number of dresses were designed with special occasions in mind, Von Furstenberg says, "The whole point is that they're all just like handkerchiefs. They fold up, even the ones that look kind of grand."

Dresses destined for big and small evenings include one suspended from spaghetti straps that morphs from solid to a peekaboo burnout paisley pattern to reveal glimpses of the leg from mid-thigh to ankle. The fabrics are so light that some of the dresses can be doubled up: a slipdress decorated with spirals, for example, is veiled by another of sheer black jersey.

The most exotic styles combine rich color and beading, a top layer of sheer, beaded tulle in saffron or fuchsia worn over a stretch jersey underdress in a contrasting hue of turquoise or plum jersey that clings to the body like a bandage. Purists can stick to their wrap dresses, watching their collections grow, but if they don't at least try on the wrap's progeny next fall, they'll be missing a lot.

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