The hoopla over hemlines has passed. French designers have provided American buyers, here to see the ready-to-wear collections for next spring, lots of clothes to buy for their stores.
Hemlines have been fixed at, or just below, the knee -- in sharp contrast with the minis that many designers showed off on the runways.
The tough, aggressive look of black leather and military details of past seasons were gone, and softer fabrics and more feminine styles overall were clearly the winners.
Other trends from the current collections include:
Shoulders that are less exaggerated but still important and widened with padding or details of design, such as ruffles or pleats;
Ruffles that soften many styles worn for daytime or evening;
Asymmetric treatments, particularly one-shoulder styles and uneven hemlines such as scissor-cut skirts;
Pants of every length, including Bermudas, knee pants, pedal pushers, clam diggers and ankle-length pants -- and lots of jumpsuits;
Chemise shapes reminiscent of the 1960s;
A color palette that starts with a heavy dose of white, then black, then strong pastels used in color blocks;
Mid-high, cone-shaped heels as the most important accessory, with high heels saved for dancing and flats a popular option.
Even the music for the showings took a sweeter turn when establishment designers presented their clothes. While the most avant-garde designers chose music from "Alien," bird noises and the mechanical, synthetic sounds of nouvelle vague and punk groups, the old-timers opted for songs like "Unforgettable," "The MoreI See You" and other numbers that kept buyers humming.
The sour notes were sounded by buyers as they took looks at the price tags when they placed their orders. Most price increases soared up with inflation, to about 15 percent, some even higher. But buyers paid if the combination of style and quality was better than what they could buy in the United States.
"I bought much less than last year," said Diana Parker, who has shops specializing in imports at White Flint and Annapolis, "because prices were up so high. But when you found the right fashion at the right price, it was like getting a great big Christmas present. fThe quality is superb, and it won't get the customer bananas." Among her favorites were the Gianni Versace designs for Genny in Milan and Angelo Tarlazzi in Paris.
Those buyers who were troubled by all the minis they saw on the runways found, when they took up their pencils to write orders, that many of the clothes actually were just below the knee. "I don't know if anyone will buy our very, very short things," said Gaby Aghion of Chloe. "They (the minis will be in the boutiques here. But everything else will be made to just below the knee."
"It just isn't the time for shorter lengths," says Hanne Merriman of Garfinckel's. "Women like to look sexy and feminine, but this isn't the time for skirts above the knee. Women are just getting used to below the knee, and to make a change would be too confusing. It will only drive women back to wearing pants."
Just the same, most buyers agreed that micro-minis as skirts or short pants are likely to be worn by a few to discos and, as before, to the beach.
But what about the man who started the affair with the mini in the late 1960s?
Andre Courreges, who held his fashion show on the top floor of the Beaubourg to highlight not only the spring designs but a new fragrance called "Amerique," cut off his hemlines for next spring at the middle of the knee.
Courreges -- dressed in pink painter's pants, a pink sweater and low pink boots not unlike the ones he made famous with his stiff and straight miniskirts a decade or so ago -- sat on the edge of the runway during most of his show watching the models skate, play soccer and swing tennis racquets as they showed off his designs.
Why no minis? Courreges was asked. He seemed surprised by the question. "I just have no feeling for it. It isn't the time. For me, the mini is retro."