A Leg Up on the Competition

It could have been the most pretentious pantyhose promotion in history, but thankfully it's only the most expensive. Donna Karan's eight-page gatefold advertisement that is running in several of the September fashion slicks turns out to be an ingenious, attractive and seductive photographs of an unadorned leg. A bit of a surprise, since the covered leg is the essential ingredient in the finished look that Karan, and other designers, love for fall. (So important, in fact, that in Donna Karan store boutiques, the dressing rooms have the pantyhose for women to wear as they try on the clothes.)

"The leg in the ad could be anybody's leg. That's why I loved it," says Karan. The photos by Denis Piel are of Click model Sonia Ryzy-Ryski and the pictures were taken as test shots -- with the expectation that a very serious leg search would follow. But the picture never had to be reshot.

The innovative advertisement was created by Arnell/Bickford Associates Ltd., which created the original Karan campaign and also does ads for Hanes, which makes the hosiery. Peter Arnell, executive creative director of the agency, says the picture of the leg in most stocking advertisements is about 6 to 9 inches. "We wanted not to show a glamorous leg but a real leg ... The leg {in the Karan gatefold} is 34 inches when you open it up. That makes it closer to the consumer," explains Arnell. The ad is perforated so it can be hung up as a poster, he said. "We're dealing with the essence of the message," he said, "the leg, not the stocking." As a reference point, Arnell first studied statues from antiquity. Then, "Michelangelo's Pieta in the Vatican and early sketches from Matisse" were used for further inspiration, explains Arnell.

The other side of the black-and-white gatefold gives three other views of the leg, starting with behind the knee and ending with a hand against the thigh. "It's the notion of cubism brought back into that ad, giving a person more than one view of a subject matter," says Arnell.

The Donna Karan hosiery, it turns out, needs no advertising. Priced between $8 and $16, they have already been selling out at Woodies, Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin. The most popular version is in black matte jersey.

The Gender Bender

Is he or isn't she? Only her designer knows for sure.

It's a boy, said one New York paper about the model on the cover of Details' September issue. No matter, says Annie Flanders, Details' editor. "We loved the picture {by Bill Cunningham}. Even after we were told it might be a man it made no difference. It represented to us an important look for fall."

The model, photographed at a Claude Montana show in Paris, turns out to be a girl, according to a Montana spokesperson.

Be sure to go beyond the cover of this best-yet issue of Details. Cunningham's thoughtful and sensible essay on the fall collections, along with his photographs, is one of the best surveys of the subject. It's worth putting a reserve on the October Details, which will have a report by Cunningham on the couture shows.

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Alonso's D.C. Dimension

The label says "Alonso -- Paris, Milan and New York," but in fact the clothes by Felix Alonso are designed in Washington. While the label is new to stores like Neiman-Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, Alonso has had a boutique for men and women in Georgetown since 1970 and soon after added custom-made clothing. As Georgetown changed, it "became necessary to move," says Alonso, who then established himself in Mazza Gallerie. It wasn't a long way to Neiman-Marcus.

Born in Spain and raised in France, Alonso designed evening dresses for Jean Patou (the house that produced Christian Lacroix and Angelo Tarlazzi, among others) and assisted at Pierre Balmain. When he opened his shop in Georgetown, he used a contractor in Como to make his clothes. Once that factory began to offer his clothes to European stores and they started to sell in Germany and Switzerland as well as Italy, Alonso opened a wholesale showroom in Paris, New York and . He expects to sell more than $2.5 million at wholesale from his spring collection.

"Washington is such an international city and my customers are so international, I'm sure that helps me design," says Alonso. One disadvantage to the fast growth: Alonso expects to close down his retail and custom operation. "There's just too much to do," he said.

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Fit to Be Ties

A trunk show for ties?

According to Craig Fox, one of the original owners of Wm. Fox & Co., there is a great demand for $52.50 and $58.50 ties in distinctive fabrics and colors in heavy silk. Fox is hosting a representative of Robert Talbott from Carmel, Calif., who will bring samples of more than 3,000 of their best ties to Wm. Fox in its new M Street location on Sept. 9. You can special-order these ties, just as you might order a Galanos gown or an Adolfo suit. He'll also bring some seven-fold handmade ties that sell for $97.50. The seven-fold tie is as as soft as a scarf and has no lining. Of course, says Fox: "We'll never stop selling yellow ties, but this gives a man a lot of alternatives."

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Skirting the Size Issue

Short skirts for large women? "If you want to wear a miniskirt, then wear it," says author and talk show host Nancy Roberts. "My entire philosophy is that you can wear anything you want to wear. If a large woman feels good and comfortable in a short skirt, then why not. I don't believe in correctional dressing. I don't believe that women should feel they have anything to correct. From that attitude comes negative feelings about ourselves."

Roberts will be signing her book, "Breaking All the Rules," and giving fashion advice Wednesday at the opening of The Answer, 1333 F St. NW, a discount store for large sizes. Roberts says the book is an answer to all the books about diet, health, fitness and beauty that tell women the only way they can feel good about themselves is to struggle endlessly."