Waist not, want not.
If you don't have a tiny middle, you will not want many of the clothes currently being shown in Paris. Many of the new long and lean styles, being offered this week by top designers for next fall, have fitted waistlines and substantial belts meant to flatter the small-waisted woman.
But fortunately, this is the season for contrasts in Paris, and while many of the clothes are meant for the lithe and lean, there are coats big enough to hide almost any figure.
Such overall trends are what the fashion folk come to Paris to discover each season. In fact, watching the rise and fall of hems, the change of silhouettes, the colors and even the accessories of the top designers is as important as the clothes each store will purchase. It is to Paris that one looks to see what will become important in American fashion in the season ahead.
Along with the overall tilt to a slimmer line, there are other clear messages from the ready-to-wear shows in Paris:
Gray is the color designers have used almost unanimously with hopes it will displace the black clothes being worn everywhere. A deep forest green has emerged as an important new color along with blood red, or a dark ruby red, which returns in several of the collections.
Plaids and chalk stripes are the only patterns that emerge in this conservative period. In fact, the only places you can still find prints are at Ungaro and Herme s, where prints are part of the signature of the house.
Bolshevik chic is apparent in the big coats in many of the collections, particularly those with generous fur collars. Jean-Paul Gaultier takes this look literally with his name in bold Cyrillic lettering on some styles, while Thierry Mugler salutes the look with tunics, military caps and other accessories.
The western look, complete with cowboy hats and fringe, has captured such diverse design talents as Kenzo, Sonia Rykiel and Jean-Louis Scherrer, all of whom noticed it on the street.
White collars, another expression of the more conservative tilt of the current crop of clothes, have shown up at Valentino and Chanel and even in the designs of Yohji Yamamoto.
*Fake furs appear more frequently than before -- in graphic patterns at Issey Miyake, tinseled edges at Thierry Mugler and iridescent jewel tones at Scherrer.
The uneven hem, an influence of the avant-garde Japanese designers, is a popular theme occasionally for daywear but particularly for evening.
Black velvet is used by Emanuel Ungaro for both daytime and evening, but many others, including Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino and Scherrer, put some of their best shapes for evening in black velvet, sometimes used with black lace.
Except for belts, very few accessories are shown with the daytime clothes. Lagerfeld has reduced the number of gold chains on the Chanel clothes. But he has made the gold buttons bigger, and even uses them on fly-front pants and back-buttoned slim skirts. "We may pass on these," said Wendell Ward, a vice president of Garfinckel's. "They will have to be worn by real people," he says. And real people have to sit down.
Ward isn't worried about other clothes that appear to be very skinny on the runway. Even the short, lean, tightly draped styles of Ungaro aren't a problem, he says. "They are never as short or as skinny when they finally arrive in the store as they were on the runway."
"The superskinny look is just for a select few," says I. Magnin's Sonja Caproni, who preferred the clothes, like Lagerfeld's jackets for Chanel, worn open with a polo sweater underneath.
Lagerfeld made the point that his clothes were for everyone. His opening scenario included three models dressed to look like pop stars. His "Sade" wore a white silk shirt and long, skinny black skirt; his "Tina Turner" was in a Chanel leather skirt and chain belt; and his "Madonna" wore her signature Merry Widow and tons of Chanel jewelry.
Most designers used rib knits and jerseys to underscore the lean look, exaggerated by a turtleneck or stand-up collar. Draping showed up everywhere as a way to make the silhouette narrow.
Even the Japanese designers, who characteristically like free form and unfitted clothes, chose ribbed knits, turtlenecks and torso-fitting styles to express their ideas this year. In fact, some of the best sweater dresses were by Yamamoto.
Slimmer styles were clearly a struggle for designer Issey Miyake, who likes to make clothes that women can move around in and change to their individual taste. "I had trouble getting the look I wanted," said Miyake after the show. He had the collection almost finished two months ago when he decided it wasn't quite right and started a new one. The result, the one he showed at the Louvre last week, provided a slimmer silhouette, yet offered metal and rubber clips on the clothes so women could pin them up or pull them back to suit their mood.
The actress Anouk Aime'e, a good friend and inspiration for Ungaro, says she doesn't know why she always feels better in clothes that are short and skinny. "There is no reason. I wouldn't say it makes me feel young. I just feel better dressed this way," she insisted.
American model Dianne DeWitt, who modeled in every major collection in Paris, had no question in her mind about the appeal of skintight clothes, which she likes best for evening wear. "They make you feel so sexy," she said.