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Just relax

Our informal reality has caught up with designers' resort fantasies. If you think of 'wintering' as something only jet-setters do, no worries -- fashion's third season is all about people like you.

January 06, 2008|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

There was a time when, next to couture, no other fashion season was as exclusive as resort. With small collections designed for an even smaller group of women with the means to use "winter" as a verb, resort first appeared in the 1940s, to wardrobe jet-setters in Palm Beach and St. Barts.

But during the past few years, resort has become a democratic success story, with designers increasing the size and scope of their collections and the focus on marketing them.

Resort arrives in stores between late November and early January, when the coats haven't yet gone but the glut of summer T-shirts and shorts has yet to arrive. The clothes -- warm-weather wear that's more playful than the clothes featured in spring collections -- are a beacon in a wasteland of unwanted post-holiday merch, a ray of sunlight on a cold winter day, the smile you get on your face when you see a swimsuit and tote bag in a matching print or a wide-brimmed straw hat and oversized sunglasses.

Resort collections used to be shown to buyers in dreary designer showrooms, on third-rate models. But in May, there were so many full-fledged resort runway shows in New York, it felt like another fashion week, complete with reviews and photo galleries on style.com.

For the first time, Christian Dior staged a resort runway show in New York, a Barbara Hutton-goes-to-India dream. Karl Lagerfeld brought the Chanel resort collection to Santa Monica: The jets, the scrum for tickets, the celebrity-studded front row -- it was a fashion scene like any other.

And it's not just the high-end design houses that are focusing on resort. Tory Burch and Diane von Furstenberg have resort collections, and J. Crew posts its online.

Retailers are pushing the season too, sending out special mailers and catalogs. And it makes sense. Now that fashion shows are broadcast instantly over the Internet, and cheap chic chains are "interpreting" designer styles before the originals even hit stores, what's new becomes old at lightning speed. There's an appetite for a third fashion season (and a fourth and a fifth) more than ever.

Even the clothes have become more universally appealing. Sure there were bikinis shimmying jewels at Dior; violet print, silk faille capri pants at Carolina Herrera; and sequined hoodies at Chanel. But there were also shirtdresses and trench coats for those of us who, gasp, work.

Resort clothes are actually suited for the more informal life we lead now. Women want the kind of casual designer jeans and anoraks that are the mainstays of the resort collections, because they're going to wear them more than the pantsuits and pencil skirts designers send out for spring and fall.

And though it's amazing to sit by the runways in Milan and Paris watching artwork go by, it's another thing to be a shopper looking for something to wear. Which is why resort is my favorite season.

At first, fantasy was the attraction. I was living in New York City, and the tropical florals, palm-frond prints and ethnic-looking embroidery reminded me of warm weather, relaxing on a beach chair and the luxury of having time on your hands. It was the sartorial equivalent of California. And then I moved here.

If you live or work in New York, you probably need a little fantasy this time of year. And if you live in California, well, you need clothes.

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booth.moore@latimes.com

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ON THE COVER

Rory Beca dress, $342 at Blonde, Santa Monica

Prada jacket, $1,180 at Prada

Erickson Beamon cuff, $643

at Curve, Los Angeles

CC Skye ring, $116

at www.ccskye.com

Sigerson Morrison shoes, $ 475 at sigersonmorrison.com

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