California Stores and Designers Streeeeetch the Summer Season

Times Staff Writer

When you're hot, you're hot. But what happens when you're hot and there's nothing but winter clothes in the stores? In July, for example, when last summer's wardrobe has been laundered to death and you need new cotton shirts, not wool turtlenecks?

Los Angeles shoppers are used to this retail anomaly--swimsuits for sale in winter, wools in July. But they can take heart: There are signs that things may change.

Local designers, now showing summer clothes to stores, say retailers are finally getting the message that it's hot here straight through October, relatively warm for about six months of the year and that local citizens want cool clothes for hot days no matter what the fashion weather is in Paris and New York.

The designers say they've put added creative push into summer collections and predict that many of their new hot-weather looks will endure as major trends for fall.

Leon Max and Christine Albers, among others, are showing what could be called a look of opposing elements--big tops over skinny bottoms, skinny tops over big bottoms.

Max poses long, oversize shirts over tight cotton-knit leggings or slim, tubular cotton knit skirts. His truncated tops are shown with full skirts or baggy pants.

Albers' oversize cotton-knit tops balloon over skirts so short and tight that they seem to reveal more than they cover.

The designer says only young trendies will wear the short versions and that stores are also ordering long, skinny skirts (below-calf length) for those who can't or won't show their legs.

Skirt length is not important to the look, Albers explains. The essential element is the interplay of loose and tight components.

Irene Kasmer is one of quite a few designers who are into "flower power" for summer. "The fashion world hasn't had a good flower-print season since the hippie era, 20 years ago," she says, "but we'll have it this year."

Kasmer's botanical bent translates into big, bright blossoms on sarong skirts and simple tops, as well as on '60s-style sundresses with elastic backs. Wear a solid-color jacket with the sundresses, she advises, and "you have an outfit with an executive image."

Anthony Moorcroft and John Murrough, for T. J. Boys, are promoting prints of another kind. Theirs are small, all-over prints with an almost-preppie aura. But they break with tradition by mixing three different prints in a single outfit. An example, photographed here, is the black print jacket over the red print sleeveless tank, shown with a blue print, short divided skirt. The triple-print group has already been bought by Saks Fifth Avenue stores, the designers say.

Moorcroft and Murrough are among a large group of Los Angeles designers now experimenting with fabrics that are not usually shown for summer. They've come up with lightweight, bare-midriff tops and pants made of leather. And loose, pants and tops made of white satin. Both fabrics might be just right on cool summer evenings in Los Angeles.

Gene Ewing, for Bis, continues her Continental approach to cotton. Here too the important element is a juxtaposition of short and long, skinny and wide. A jacket is longer than the skirt-like shorts shown with it; a long, gored, Gatsby-style skirt is shown with a short-cut top.

Ewing does blouses that tie to bare the midriff with either long or short skirts. Her pants are either full or skinny--and the skinny ones are teamed with extra-big, loose tops.

Ewing and Leon Max are among a growing group of California designers who work with cotton year-round. They say cotton is becoming accepted as a winter fabric, not just in California, but even in deep-freeze climates.

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