No bones. The only bones in this collection are the models' own," said designer Geoffrey Beene before his collection for next spring was shown at the Hotel Pierre.
Beene was taking a jab at a popular theme in the collections here last week and earlier in Paris that have included corselets and bustiers, made stiff with boning. Though Beene has continued the leaner look he started to show six months ago, nothing is ever tight, and comfort is still a prime requirement.
The designer, who got his eighth Coty award this year, the most given any designer, was in top form for his show Friday. His fabric mix works like collages, heightened by a mix of jewelry. His prints, taken from the gift wrap on packages he has gotten in Japan, is clean and modern. The shapes are sometimes surprisingly short, and alternate with longer full skirts.
Ralph Lauren also has rejected the curvy movie-star mood that has captivated other designers. But while Beene has opted for maximum fabric luxury at maximum prices, Lauren offers minimal styles in linen, although also at maximum price tags.
"My customer out there wants a lot of simplicity, not a lot of jazz," said Lauren after his show Thursday night in his Seventh Avenue showroom. His clothes were the simplest he has ever made, "and also the most difficult." He showed loose, long dresses or easy-fitting tops over long skirts or loose pants. All were shown in black or white, undecorated except for a bit of hand-painting, such as that on a fine handkerchief or embroidery on lingerie. Many skirt and pant lengths were cut just above the ankle and worn with flat sandals that tied at the ankle.
Lauren, too, included a few slim styles, including a white linen sheath, unadorned except for the model's antique-looking earrings and bracelet. And he repeated the successful coat-dress he showed for fall in wool, this time in black or white linen.
Both designers have been doing their homework, studying what has been selling and what their customers need. Beene, who is having his biggest selling season in years, knows his customers are willing to part with bundles of money for bantamweight dressy clothes in unique mixtures of texture, fiber and print. An example: A black-linen camisole tops a skirt of organza with black-and-white dots bordered in black lace.
His evening clothes are a lot leggier this season, ending above the knee and worn with lace or dotted hose. "You see so much leg with short dresses , they need to be decorated," said Beene.
Beene has always liked loose, easy tunics and they show up for spring, often cut like big, loose shirts over short skirts. "Women no longer need the reassurance of the gray flannel suit for business," said Beene, who thinks the tunic and skirt is a great look for the office. "Women in business seem more secure and don't need to dress like men."
He still likes trousers, and his daytime versions remain cut full, though now they are flatter over the hips. His satin pajamas with a pave'-beaded tunic top is a marvelous way to dress for evening.
His narrow shapes are often achieved with tucking, which is released before the hemline and gives the effect of a narrow ruffle. Even when his clothes are straight and narrow they appear to have an easy kind of comfort that comes from dropped shoulders and a fit that never binds, as in his low-belted, satin-and-wool gown with Art Moderne motif stitched in silver. Or a column of black satin with white, quilted semi-detached cuffs stitched in silver.
Lauren has put aside his usual jeans and old tweed jacket for a more elegant blue pin-stripe banker's suit, more in keeping with the "simple elegance" theme he used for his show. He has gone stark simple, he says, because plain clothes are the one thing his regular customers don't own at the moment. They've already got Victorian blouses and western duds and jackets and skirts made from early-American quilts, which Lauren fully expects they will continue to wear.
"These are clothes that Grace Kelly might have worn, and Katharine and Audrey Hepburn," says Lauren. "They never were fashion freaks. They just wanted elegant clothes."