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Camouflage Reappearing on Fashion's Front Lines

March 16, 2001|ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY | ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — Camouflage may help combat troops blend into their surroundings, but fashion's foot soldiers are sporting the military-inspired look to help them stand out in a crowd.

This isn't the typical olive drab, though. Camouflage patterns are adorning everything from evening wear to underwear. Unexpected additions and fabrics, including sequins, cashmere, georgette and silk, give a more feminine, luxurious feel to the no-nonsense design.

Designer Nicole Miller began showing camouflage for fall 2000 and reintroduced the look for spring 2001.

"It's a little edgy, a little tough, it's boyish," says Miller. She explains that she was drawn to camouflage because it is a classic pattern. Moreover, most countries have a specific military camouflage design, offering a seemingly endless source of inspiration.

Mixing military looks with fashion is nothing new to Burberry, the British brand that was established in 1856 and is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Thomas Burberry designed a raincoat in 1901 that became regulation gear during World War I.

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Jump ahead to this season, and Burberry is offering a bathing suit, large shoulder bag, floppy hat and mules all in a camouflage print.

Samira Nasr, a fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar, says the trend originated from kids on the street.

"It's been an underground thing, kids wearing it and having to get it at the Army surplus store," she says. "And the designers have thought to transform it into something beautiful."

And, she adds, a camouflage bikini, dress or little top is more sexy than militaristic.

"The silhouette will make it flirty."

Chris Hansen, executive vice president of marketing for large-size retailer Lane Bryant, also picked up on the "flirty" camouflage look.

"I think the biggest trend will be in intimate apparel," she says, noting that camouflage thongs, bras and camisoles are popular.

But couldn't such a large, splashy pattern be a turnoff for some plus-size women?

"I don't think that bothers the customer who wants to be part of that trend," says Hansen. "There are certain plus-size women who are very comfortable in their own body size. You'll always be able to find a size 6 who swears she's too fat for the pattern."

But trend-conscious dressers shouldn't go overboard with the look. Too much of it is a major faux pas.

"When it looks like it could be a uniform, you know you're wearing more than you should be," says Hansen, warning women not to wear a camouflage T-shirt, camouflage pants and a camouflage jacket all at once.

Although camouflage will be a hit for spring and summer, many people in the fashion industry agree that, like most hot trends, camouflage won't stay in style forever.

Hansen also predicts a swift demise for camouflage: "It will be short, sweet and fast."

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