Mick Jagger had only one request when he asked designer Issey Miyake to create a stage outfit for him: "Give me a sexy body." Last week Miyake delivered his creation in time for the Rolling Stones' concert in London. Called "pink Jagger" by Miyake, it was a huge cape in pink with very broadened shoulders over a fitted jacket made of the kind of rubberized/spongy fabric used by deep-sea divers and with pants made of spandex banded in leather. When spotlights or camera flashes strike the outfit, it turns white.
One of Miyake's special talents is inventive fabrics; in his shops at the moment are clothes made of paper. And his concern is always making fabrics and clothes that are very practical. Coming up may be his most practical clothes to date: of gray wool flannel that is totally machine washable and dryable, and with buttons that are double thickness to survive machine abuse.Many of the styles in this group he calls "plantation" are equally for men and for women.
Computer technology shapes fashion in Japan. Wacoal, a large underwear manufacturer, is making photographs of a thousand women to study average sizes. The photographs, which appear like moire patterns, give a topographical view -- like a map of the earth's surface -- of a woman's body.
By feeding into a computer a thousand topograhical patterns of the female body, they can come up with a reliable average and that way develop better sizing of their garments.
Young Japanese love hats. Mothers dress their little children in hats in part as a protection from the sun -- but also to finish off the very dressed-up look. Natural straw brimmed hats with a trim of tiny flowers is a favorite for toddler girls, while boys wear caps of endless varieties.
Hats and caps are also part of every school uniform, and regulations not only specify exactly what kind can be worn but also how long the boy's hair can be. Even the book bag is part of the uniform, and its color is regulated.
"It is probably because we have to wear uniforms so much that we care so much about how we dress when we are not in uniform," says Toshiyo Matsushima, 23, an assistant in the international department at Kanebo Limited, a huge textile, cosmetics and foodstuffs company based in Osaka. Matsushima, who attended one year of high school in Dublin, Ohio, escaped uniform wearing by going to a private school; but now, like almost everyone else in Japan, she has to wear a uniform for the office. "I haven't a choice," says Matsushima, who is partial to Yves Saint Laurent and Emanuel Ungaro, which her mother wears often, and Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein for herself. Most department stores in Japan feature the clothes of American and French designers in boutiques within the stores.
There was a showing of new school uniforms at the Nishijin Union Hall last week, and Kanebo had their current and future models of uniforms for college students on display mannequins.
According to Shoji Nakatsugawa of Kanebo, college uniforms are a big-volume business for Kanebo, which this year has moved away from the traditional jacket and box-pleated skirt and is showing a three-piece wool suit with vest and tie and white shirt, as well as two fashionable styles that look like they are borrowed from French ready-to-wear. One has a short, boxy jacket and pleated skirt and a soft artist's bow tied under the flat collar of the blouse; the other is a sailor middy style for women.
Though it doesn't qualify as a uniform, clearly the most popular accessory in Kyoto or Osaka and even Tokyo these days is the Louis Vuitton shoulder bag. In the small variety stores that stretch along the main street in Kyoto, there are many copies of the Vuitton-initialed brown plastic and leather styles, but most women seem to hold out for the authentic ones as the ultimate status item.
There is a clear-cut guide to identifying foreigners in Japan: Women who aren't wearing stockings are not Japanese. Last Sunday was hot and sunny and gangs of people were visiting the temples and shrines, but even the young girls in Bermuda shorts were in stockings, sometimes wearing them with socks as well. "We just think it is the proper thing to do," says Matsushima. "We would not think of being without them." If you think no one notices, you are mistaken: There will always be that embarrassing moment when everyone stops before entering a building or restaurant to take off their shoes. Somehow, bare feet stick out like, well, a sore toe.
The annual listing of area sewing classes will appear in The Washington Post on September 5. Listings must be received by The Post no later than August 15 and should include range of skill needed for instruction, location, hours, fees and instructors. Mail entries to Kathleen Sterritt, Style Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.