It didn't take long for New York fashion designers to clear up the statement made by their European cousins a month ago in Milan, Florence, Paris and London.
This final lap of the marathon fall shows started up in New York last week, and the message is this: The big, full-blown look, which customers were never exactly mad for, has to go. the comfort of easy-fitting clothes remains, but the figure, which many women have worked so painfully to achieve, is now back in view.
To set the record straight, blousons have sold well. So have big sweaters, and other big tops and tent-like dresses are expected to do well this summer. But a big top and a big bottom - that seems to have defeated even the fashion freaks.
The new clothes look as though someone has stuck a pin in them. There is still some fullness, but the overinflated puffiness is gone, scaled down for comfort and good looks.
As in Paris and Milan, the big message is big shoulders. But unlike Paris and Milan, where the clothes are designed to be sold on a smaller scale and the big public out there is not the main concern, the New York versions of the big-shoulder treatment are all more believable and wearable.
"Building up of the shoulder gives clothes structure without being structured," expalined designer Kasper at the start of his show. Unlike the last go-round of shoulder pads in the 1940s, these clothes for fall are soft and still without inner construction.
What sets them apart from the 1940s, too, says designer Perry Ellis, along with the unconstructed nature of the clothes, is the fact that the skirts are long and often worn with flat shoes.
And you certainly never caught Joan Crawford with her long johns showing from under her skirts and meeting up with socks and men's shoes, as in yesterday's Ellis show. (To complete the look, Ellis let men's undershirts - in the same Sunny's Surplus-type gray or beige long johns - show from under blouses and jackets.)
Ellis like others, tends to show big tops with narrow bottoms, or narrow tops (like shrunken wool, waist-lenght sweaters) with full pleated skirts or pants. And to keep you warm when the sweater hikes up, you have your long johns underneath, of course.
If the look for day tends to be tailored and tweedy, at night it is all systems go and nothing is held back.
There are slits up to the waist and down to the waist and sometimes both in the same dress. Face veils, fox stoles (complete with heads and tails), fringe, satin, and lots of lace are brightened with doses of gold and dash of cherry red.
In spite of the long-john craziness, buyers are finding a lot of clothes they are sure their customers in Washington and elsewhere will want to buy.
At the top of many lists are coats, starting from built-up shoulders, and usually best when they hang with a boxy look like the old reefer or Chesterfield. Now they're a bit roomier at the top and in softer fabrics like cashmere and lightweight wool.
Jackets, again starting from shoulder pads and still roomy if not quite as oversized as before, are winners, worn with skinnied-down skirts or pants (but never so narrow you can't take long strides). And of course last year's pants won't do, even if you take a tuck in the hem to give them a pegged look. The best of them so skinny at the bottom you wonder if you can get your leg through - particularly in some of the evening versions.
Leathers and suedes are expected to be ordered by many a buyer - it's not something most women have in their closets. They are often in black, occasionally reminiscent of the punks, but usually very soft. Bill Atkinson does an extrakordinary gruop in lightweight punched suede and Ralph Lauren goes to Marlboro country for the fringed frontier look.