Among the more visible style statements this winter is headgear -- as in hoods, newsboy caps and floppy rabbit hats. Warmth alone does not explain a sudden resurgence in furry earflaps. New York photographer Steven Meisel wears his to parties and fashion shows, the better to be noticed. Those who follow Deee-Lite know Jungle DJ Towa Towa by his baseball caps and signature trapper's flaps. In his case, though, one suspects that putting on a sweaty fur ball for a dance groove is easier than a comb-out.
Berets are also making a comeback, in Washington and elsewhere. The classic chapeau of cafe poets is a welcomed bit of nostalgia and, compared with cartwheel hats and Stetsons, more compact. Besides, a black beret suggests romance and intrigue. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for pink berets with rhinestones and pearls.
The fact is, people look better with a hat on -- porkpie to pillbox. It is, and always has been, the finishing touch. Women used to buy a new hat to wear with a new dress, just as they matched handbags with shoes. But if women -- and, for that matter, men -- no longer dress by numbers, they are still interested in making style statements.
So if you want to get ahead, get a hat.
Bigger is rarely better in fashion; less is always more. But the seasonal exception to that rule is the big shirt, a breezy result of the move toward looser, softer fashion.
In one sense, the big shirt is just another '60s throwback, a housewife's delight over capri pants. A few designers, though, manage to finesse the look without flashbacks or maternity ward sendups. Karl Lagerfeld downplays the theme by treating the big shirt as a loose blouse, untucked and free to fly over a pleated mini or under a softly tailored jacket. Even his bigger blouses -- in big graffiti prints -- are under control over cropped leggings.
Other designers blur the line between dress and shirt. Donna Karan's shimmering taffeta shirts from her cruise collection could be worn with or without leggings. Carolyne Roehm deploys the style with fishermen's smocks. You get the idea.
As comfy as they may be, however, voluminous fashion does not serve voluminous people. Even women of tall, slender means should consider the proportions of bigger shirts, lest they get that drippy look.
Could Al Pacino do for brush cuts what Michael Douglas did for slickbacks? The leading man's leading hairdo goes straight up in "The Godfather Part III," a graying Astroturf of scissored stubble. If Gordon Gekko personified '80s greed in "Wall Street," his grease-ball routine now seems as deadly as a portfolio of junk bonds. Of course, Pacino's character is no cupcake, but the sight of such fellow he-guys as Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin in brushed flattops makes one wonder if this is '90s macho: natural bristle.
Figure this: After charging women upwards of $60 for haircuts, salons are now touting "quick service" cuts for under $20. Washington has its first Quick Coupe salon, opened before Christmas by Jacques Sarfati and Robert Novel, who are looking at additional locations, including Union Station. "We've taken all the better elements -- the training, the look, the uniforms -- and applied them to a quick-service salon," says Novel, who owns the Bruno Dessange franchise in Georgetown.
For owners, quick service means high volume. For customers, it means convenience at a good price. The Dessange parent company in Paris plans to offer similar services; its competitor Jean-Louis David already has a chain of quick-cut salons.
Quick Coupe, at 1330 Connecticut Ave. NW, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Women's haircuts are $19; men's $12. No appointment is necessary.
This isn't an official estimate, but a survey of District rent-a-frock shops reveals that at least 50 women did not wear their own dresses to Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon's inaugural ball last week. Now will you please stand up?
"We rented far more dresses for both the holidays and the inaugural ball than we had expected," reported Jennifer Hellman, co-owner of Til Midnight, which opened a year ago at 19th and M streets. The store rented some 40 dresses for Dixon's gala Wednesday night at Union Station, and would-be Cinderellas were still trying on gowns as late as that afternoon.
At Black & White in Georgetown, owner Anthony Voci wasn't renting gowns so much as selling them off. He sold between eight and 12 dresses for the ball at $30 each. "Some women bought two," he noted.
Rental shops are one way of reading the economic pulse. Voci's major volume is in uniform rentals to restaurants, and he says business is good because restaurants are continuing to open. His holiday party dress rentals, on the other hand, were down by half from a year ago. "People aren't going out as much," he ventured.
But Hellman, who stocks more than 400 dresses to rent from $75 to $250, suggests that her company is benefiting from a weaker economy. "People still have events to go to, but they just don't have the money to spend on something new," she said.
And what was the favorite rent-a-dress for the mayor's ball?
"Anything with sequins," said Hellman.