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Big squeeze!

September 09, 2007|Emili Vesilind | Times Staff Writer

THE days of the pup tent are coming to an end.

True, the voluminous Empire waist, sacks and baby dolls that hit the runways two years ago (and filtered down to every Gap and Wal-Mart) are still crowding the racks, but the pendulum is swinging to the tighter end of the spectrum. Slinky is back, and Hollywood is leading the way with the chicest starlets donning the most body-conscious silhouette of all: the bandage dress by Hérve Léger. The look -- which gives new meaning to the term yummy mummy -- is created by sewing together bandage-width panels of stretch fabric, contoured to create an hourglass silhouette. Parisian designer Léger came up with the idea in 1989 by winding seam bindings around a mannequin.

Perfecting the glove-like fit is so time-consuming, only 600 to 700 can be made each month, according to Max Azria, the L.A. designer who bought the brand in 1998 and recently renamed it Hérve Léger by Max Azria. The time is right for a Leger comeback, Azria said, because "we are moving in the direction of more femininity and sharpness."

The bandage comeback began on the spring 2007 runways, when Proenza Schouler showed short-and-shiny, multicolored striped bandage skirts, while Christopher Kane offered candy-hued bandage dresses that zip in front, scuba-style.

After the runways, the popularity of Leger's vintage pieces surged, along with a new enthusiasm for all things 1980s, including similar, tight-fitting styles by cult designer Azzedine Alaia.

Last year, Hollywood stylist Jessica Paster picked a vintage, floor-length taupe bandage dress for British actress Emily Blunt to wear to the Golden Globe Awards. Blunt's skin-tight number set off a firestorm of requests for vintage bandages. Victoria Beckham, Keira Knightley, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Biel are among those who have worn the va-va-voom look.

Azria hopes the rage for vintage Léger will mean excitement for the label's future collections, which he is designing (though there is almost no difference between the old and the new). A collection of next-generation bandage dresses hit Intermix stores this summer, and last month, the company renovated its tiny Beverly Hills boutique in classic black-and-white Regency style, complete with archival photographs of the '80s bandage dresses.

Thirty years later, the mummy parties on.

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emili.vesilind@latimes.com

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