Aside from the Clovis Ruffin show last week - when the designer's mother, in her own mink stole, chased a leather-studded, chained couple down the runway with a bullwhip pulled from her grocery bag - things have been pretty quiet on Seventh Avenue, where the spring collections are in their second week.
The point of the above scenario, says Ruffin's assistant David Dillman, was to put to rest any thoughts about punk and leather as a serious fashion message - a message that has yet to loom here as it did at shows in Paris and London last month. But then, the collections aren't over.
What is on view here is an assortment of loose, uncomplicated, sexy clothes in the lightest-weight cottons, silks and wools, all very see-throughable and clearly meant to be seen-through to the little or no underwear underneath. This is not a radical change for American designers, but a reinforcement and refinement of the trends of the last couple of seasons.
Unlike the Paris designers, who are always tempted to strech their ideas to extremes, the Americans pull back out of concern for customers (and sales) appeal. While paris was blatantly sexy, the styles here are softer and more feminine. Still, if the American designers mean for their customers to wear camisoles or undies, they're not showing them that way.
The loose-fitting unlined, and unstructured jacket is a favorite outer layer. Pants are back as part of the assortment - hardly big news to Washington women, who never gave them up. But teh current crop differents fromt the last go-round by being tapered to the hem.
The big blouson of tall has given way to a full-blown overblouse or tunic worn over full and long (at least mid-calf) skirts. T-shirts have been taken over by textured knit sweaters always very loose with sleeves pushed top or rolled up and very casual.
(Yes, there are a few T-shirts in cotton lisle and silk jersey, but that's as much a T-shirt as $75 jeans are dungarees.(
Billowy, loose dresses are a prevailing theme and likely to be a huge warm-weather success combined with the comfort of slipping into bikini underwear and bare sandals on a hot summer day.
Calvin klein and John Anthony who led off this week's showings, both were in top form. Klein puts nothing extraneous in his clothes, nor were threre any wasted moments in getting his show on the road. In fact, his showroom assistants, who usually check it guests at the front door, were posted in the lobby to make sure no one without an invitation added to the full house upstairs. And five minutes after the scheduled starting time, elevator doors were locked and the show began - on time by Seventh Avenue standards.
There are probably more dressed in the Klein collection than ever before, all very loose and barely skimming the body. The line is uninterrupted even by a seam. His strongest message, though, still involves separate parts that can be put together. The outer layer is ofen a loose shawl-cadlared jacket, sleeves pushed up like a 1950s sweater, over a charmeuse (lightweight satin) blouse open to the waist and pegged pants of full skirt. All of the textures are different, all of the colors are different - modern sportswear from a designer with a good record in matters of taste.
Like Lagerfeld and others in Paris, Klein, too, has a shapely model, and her name is Patty Hanson. Like other Klein models, she has no objections to clothes that are transparent or body-baring. "I just like bare, sexy things. They make me feel healthy and happy," she says.
Says model Betsy Berry, "It's exciting. It makes you look like a sculpture." Iman, the Somali-born model, finds it all "sexy without offending."
John Anthony insured the light weight of his clothes by developing two machines that eliminate hems, bindings, plackets and even linings. Tiny ruffles are the only extra details. Everything is soft and limp in tones from pink to gray, always sliding easily over the body rather than clinging to it. He uses silk georgette, lightweight wool jersey, a very airy silk and linen knit for sweaters and coats, and a wool as lightweight as nun's veiling for a group of exceptional suits.*