Seams aren't always what they seem. For Azzedine Alaia, the Tunisian-born designer who has shaped many of the freshest looks from Paris in the last year, a seam is not just something that holds two pieces of fabric together. It is shape and design. And not just any ordinary shape or design.

His clothes are mostly black and usually tight-fitting across the hips, thanks to slanted and curved seams that are marked with contrast threads and incorporated into the design. Many of his things fit easily across the top, thanks to wide-cut armholes. But his skirts or the bottoms of dresses rarely give an inch, which is why avant-garde women in Paris love his look. It may seem hard to wear, but--surprisingly--it is seamed to fit a lot of women.

One of Alaia's biggest fans is Washington-born model and actress Angela Robinson, who likes to soften the Alaia look with fresh flowers and old lace. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Azzedine Alaia black cotton knit dress with dolman sleeves, purple seaming ($310) at La Boutique Francaise; Rafael Sanchez hand- painted earrings ($90) at Cachet Four Seasons. Black cotton knit tank top with one snap at shoulder, deep armhole ($140), black cotton skirt with white overstitching and back snaps ($175), both by Azzedine Alaia at La Boutique Francaise; black and white speckled earrings by Columbine at Cachet Four Seasons ($20); white cotton crocheted gloves ($10) and white antique handkerchief ($3.50), both at The Great Gatsby, Alexandria. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BOWDEN