Not long ago, a womens fashion magazine featured this advice on wardrobe building: Divide your closet into categories like work, weekend and sports, dating and special occasions, and allocate a portion of your clothing budget to each section. The lesson here, illustrated with a pie chart, is that the woman who spends too much on stuff appropriate for making entrances at black-tie events wont be generally well-dressed, because that activity occupies only a sliver of her life.Its time to add a new category to the pizza: slutwear.
I speak of those clothes perfect for strolls down Hollywood Boulevard or a late-night visit to the Peninsula Hotel bar. For all I know, real hookers shop at Nordstrom and appreciate the styling of Liz Claiborne. But the widely held stereotype of how they dress runs to hot pants, stretch lace T-shirts, tall, nasty boots and Pamela Anderson Lee wigs.
Think of what a television costumer would put on Candice Bergen for a Murphy Brown goes undercover as a ho episode and you can picture the current sleaze trend.Perhaps there is an explanation for the fact that many of the vampiest clothes shown on New York runways this week are from California designers. Are the residents of the last American frontier more broad-minded, less inhibited than their East Coast sisters?
Do L.A. women spend so much time club crawling that their repeat business legitimizes this market niche?
Some of the tarty styles derive from the 1970s, the post-sexual revolution, pre-AIDS decade when promiscuity was accepted, rock n roll was king, and the King played Caesars Palace in snug white jumpsuits. But the recent Italian interpretation of the 70s fashion revival has focused more on rich hippies than cheap hustlers. Richard Nixons semi-beautiful daughters were around in the 70s, and they didnt wear transparent shirts with breath-defying black vinyl bell-bottoms.
Advertisement Betsey Johnson, whose fall collection was an ode to rocker Patti Smith, is one of the New York-based purveyors of good-natured slutwear. Her dresses are favored by young teenagers still close to enough childhood innocence to carry off Johnsons racier looks without prompting a call to the vice squad.A fashion pundit once observed that spandex is a privilege, not a right.
Johnson means her women to be bold and offers them nowhere to hide. Anyone too shy for her glittery, revealing designs can take shelter only under a long, turquoise brocade coat with Big Bird fake-fur lining.Janet Howard, a Los Angeles designer in business for three years, presented an aggressive line of viva Las Vegas clothes, made of shiny, stretchy, slippery, clingy materials.
Howards best number was a tight black Emma Peel zip-front dress. Her tougher street-walker looks included a blue fake-fur jacket covering skimpy hot pants and iridescent gold lame hip-huggers that were tame compared to the see-through silver turtleneck that topped them. Thigh-high skirts were worn with sheer, seamed stockings and notice-me high heels.
Another Los Angeles company, Bisou-Bisou, mixed the hot stuff with straighter clothes, the way many real women will. The models tossed on fake mink stoles. With boot-cut trousers and simple tops, the wraps made the runway a scene of little girls playing dress-up.
Fashion now is about things that seem incongruous that actually work very well together, Mirabella Fashion Director Ruth La Ferla explained. Advertisement *Just as a denim shirt with a business suit connotes a man with a more relaxed after-hours life, so slutwear can allow a good girl to hint at a secret wild streak. Bisou-Bisous lavender sleeveless shell overlaid with ivory lace managed to be at once foxy and nerdy, paired with a below-the-knee-length skirt.
Bree, the prostitute Jane Fonda portrayed in the 1971 movie Klute, could have been the inspiration for the maxicoats, flared pants and skinny shirts by Katayone Adeli for Parallel, also based in Los Angeles. Dispatches from the fall Gucci collection seem to have reached Parallel quickly. A lean, sparkling black shirt, worn unbuttoned and tucked into narrow pants, and a faux ponyskin short shoulder bag were worthy versions of styles seen in Milan less than a month ago.
BCBG, designed by 1995 California Designer of the Year Max Azria, also played all the 70s notes--space-dyed knits, belted jackets with military details, glossy short leather coats over vinyl bootleg pants.If many of these less expensive collections can be fairly accused of being derivative, their source is most often Italian designer Miuccia Pradas spring designs for Prada and Miu Miu, now in stores. So what a surprise it was when the fall Miu Miu collection shown here this week featured an about-face, abandoning the ugmo plaids and sickly colors so many others have raced to imitate.
Prada cleverly juxtaposes contrasting images. She creates prim clothes one could imagine a matron from suburban Bergamo would travel to Milan to purchase--stiff coats and demure little suits. When shapely young women, Miu Mius target audience, wear them, the effect is not at all staid.
Add dinky printed day dresses and evening frocks trimmed with the sort of lace youd expect to see on a pretty slip, and Miu Miu shows what the Church Lady might have worn before maturity ruined her nerve.With so much in the middle market that is not original, it is heartening to see the work of New York designer Cynthia Rowley. Her dresses are priced less than $300, yet she is unmistakably her own woman, always a little ahead of the pack.
Rowley aped the 70s in her last collection. This time, she presented a group of short, black-and-white evening separates with a sweet 50s aura and ombred blue mohair sweaters cozy enough to cuddle into on a brisk winter day.Gieffeffe (pronounced GFF, designer Gianfranco Ferres initials) is another collection that proved reasonably priced clothes dont have to be cheesy.
A sort of Euro-DKNY, the line offered lush camels hair coats with matching wide, cuffed trousers; oversized, suspendered waxed leather fishermans pants; and sleek Saturday morning active wear plastered with the GFF logo. Advertisement *Finally, a new era to plunder. In a wonderful collection inspired by the movie Carrington, Anna Sui saluted the late 20s and early 30s and the British literati who lived as stylishly as they wrote.
Her windowpane plaid suits with long velvet coats would serve a Bloomsbury eccentric embarking on a steamship cruise. Sui pulled hip-length marled sweater vests over lanky dresses printed with muted Art Deco designs.Accessories were as charming as the clothes--ropes of jet beads, purses like needlepoint doctor bags or flame-stitched knitting totes, cloches and feathered, jeweled headbands.
After nightfall she suggested flirty panne velvet and chiffon dresses cut on the bias or high-waisted, sheer, beaded black flapper gowns.We havent seen women outfitted this beautifully since Ken Russells filmed treatments of D.H.
Lawrences novels. Dressing like Virginia Woolf isnt any less realistic today than putting on costumes associated with women who trade sex for cash. The romantic vision Sui presents transcends its historical period.
Next: Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren.