Lady Diana and "Brideshead Revisited" may have conquered the runways of London, but the Americans have won the streets.
From chichi, boutique-lined Moulton Street to King's Road with its gangs of tough-looking punks, two clearly American looks led the fashion parade last weekend: the rah-rah miniskirt in sweat shirt fabric by Norma Kamali, which also is shown in cheap copies in almost every shop window in London, and the long prairie skirt, featured at the Ralph Lauren shop on Bond Street.
Some young women have paired the mini with sweat shirt tops, much as Kamali showed in New York. Punks wear it with leather vests and some, unexpectedly, with polka dots or other boldly printed tops.
The prairie skirt is just beginning to find interpretations on the street. Even some of the spinoffs of Lauren's Santa Fe style, the Indian concho belt and the petticoat poking from under long-tiered skirts, are getting the London treatment, too.
"I hadn't worn a skirt at all for three years until I saw the sweat one," said 18-year-old Dee Perryman. She bought Kamali's tiered mini and matching gray sweat shirt and took out the shoulder pads. "They just were too much," said Perryman, who wears the same outfit as part of her work uniform for Moulton Brown's, the trendy shop that sells Kamali's things.
The minis worn by Perryman and her pal, Sophie Peart, were particularly soft and flouncy, in contrast to the narrow styles of almost 20 years ago when the mini first was popular. But some are just as short. "This is one of my longest," said Peart.
"I wear skirts even shorter when I go dancing," said Denise Mantle, 20, a bank clerk, who was wearing her sweat shirt mini with a punk belt and a jacket with two punk group pins, "Drac's Bac" and "Red Lipstique."
"I don't even call this a mini," said Laura Topper, a shop clerk who was wearing a two-tiered royal blue mini. A "real mini," according to Topper, barely covers the derriere.
Susan Eyre, 25, who is between secretarial jobs, "wouldn't dare" wear to work the Kamali-style baggy shaped pants in sweat shirt fabric she was wearing on Saturday. "It is fine for weekends," she said, while shopping on Moulton Street, "because it is so easy and comfortable." But Karen Falland, 18, a clerk who was wearing a red-dot mini, said, "Sure, I dress like this for the office . . . They make me really feel free."
"I have to wear a straight skirt, white shirt, tie and jumper (skirt) as my (Heathfield) school uniform so these short skirts are what I wear to a game on weekends," said Jackie Barken, 15, who was wearing a snap-brim hat with her jacket and Kamali-like mini.
"You won't catch me in a mini. It's crude and vulgar," said Koloran Howard, 22, a bookbinder who was wearing a striped mid-calf length prairie skirt with an attached petticoat showing below the hem. Around her waist was a silver-colored metal-and-turquoise concho belt a friend found for her in Mexico.
Adrianna Shamaris, 19, an actress, started wearing long skirts and petticoats in school two years ago. "I found several versions of them when I worked as an au pair in Genoa," she said. But now she has the real thing, the Ralph Lauren style she bought in the Polo shop where she sometimes works.
Men also are caught up in American fashion. Marc Powell, 21, was walking on King's Road proudly snapping suspenders attached to his high-rise pants. "I guess you could call this a zoot suit," he said, referring to the long jacket, long chain and peg pants, which measured 30 inches across at the knee and 14 inches wide at the ankle, with a two-inch cuff. He was wearing a plaid cotton shirt as well, but not the fat painted ties he says he is partial to at the moment.
"Everyone was wearing all this skinny stuff so I had to go to the opposite extreme," said Powell, adding that the zoot suit's history in London dates to World War II. "I'm very much into nostalgia," he said. "But I like my nostalgia well-tailored."