'Body Furnishing' : Paris Designers Fill Fall Lines With Touches of Home Decor

Times Fashion Editor

Jean Paul Gaultier's Nouvelle Bourgeoisie wears her rug as a skirt. Karl Lagerfeld's newly redecorated woman wears overstuffed chairs on her head, candlesticks on her dress and opens and closes her jacket with drawer pulls. And Claude Montana's heroine uses the cornucopia on the dining-room table as a sleeve.

It's called body furnishing, and it's France's latest fashion affectation for fall. In the same way that the placement of furniture can become as important as the furniture itself, the placement of fashion parts becomes the key to next season's new look.

Montana, for example, shows his new waist-length sweaters over calf-length leather dresses. Gaultier pulls short knitted sweaters over long pin-striped suit jackets. And Lagerfeld sets new fashion time by showing wrist watches as earrings and grandfather clocks as jeweled embroideries on the fronts of evening gowns.

Reversible Is In

Just as every good interior designer knows the value of a well-placed slipcover, France's exterior designers understand the importance of clothes whose outsides belie their insides. Reversible coats, of course, have long testified to this fashion fact. But now there are reversible sunglasses at Montana (one side is black; one side is spotted to match the fake animal spots on the collars of black leather jackets). And there are reversible two-piece dresses at Gaultier. A black rib-knit sweater, for example, and black rib-knit skirt reverse to become ruffle-tiered copper lame cha-cha-cha dresses. This amazing fashion feat is accomplished without bulges on the black side. When you consider the day-and-night possibilities of this one dress, you understand why Gaultier is considered the new idea man of Paris street fashion.

Other Gaultier notions worth noting: zip-front tapestry midriff warmers that extend from just under the bust line, where they are shaped in bra-like curves, to the fanny; cable-knit dresses with built-out brassieres, complete with circular top stitching; dresses with front drapery strategically placed to fold under and around each breast; coats that reverse from printed velvet to foulard tapestry; rug skirts held together with suspender-like clasps, and full-skirted, quilted satin tea-cozy dresses worn over black turtlenecks.

From the Top

Lagerfeld starts his new body homes with a roof, of course. In this case, it's a wide, shoulder-to-shoulder "roof" collar for jackets. Other Lagerfeld contributions to fall fashion include magnificent, modern jewel embroideries that feature such motifs as candelabra, urns, grandfather clocks, tooling from Tony Lama cowboy boots and a Lagerfeldian coat-of-arms animal that looks like a cross between a griffin and a Polish eagle. Lagerfeld also gives us triple-decker knitted watch caps (each in a different color), double-decker stovepipe hats, suede wristlets on their way to becoming gloves, but minus the hands; fake ruby, garnet, emerald and amethyst rings--one for each finger and all worn at the same time on the same hand, and spit-curl hairdos like the Apache dancers wear.

While there's a lot of hocus-pocus in this season's Paris fashion offerings, there's real magic in the Montana collection, and it earned this one-man design force the first standing ovation of the season--a prolonged ovation seldom seen in the tents of the Tuileries, where the collections are held.

Montana, who had raised sportswear to the level of couture, gives us mink ski jackets and tunics in an array of one-more-beautiful-than-the-other colors that include sky blue, pink, banana, turquoise and orange. Montana's new layers include short denim jackets merged with camel-color cashmere coats, brown corduroy ankle-cuff trousers, tuck-in brown sweaters and brown crocodile flats set on crepe soles. Many of the new Montana jackets curve up in the back, and his new geography sweaters are in white with colored Jacquard designs that look like maps. The boot of Italy appears in purple, for example, and other countries turn up as green or yellow.

With Tails and Without

Montana, who also designs the Complice collection in Milan, uses frock coats--with and without tails--in both lines. There are more evening versions in Montana's signature collection, and the fabrics here include moire taffeta. The satin group includes cornucopia-sleeve coats in green, purple and yellow, all belted in black suede and worn with black suede flats with insets of color to match the coat. Each coat is higher in the back than in the front.

For the finale, Montana issues slinky black double-knit gowns that close in the back with sportswear snaps. One has a back cutout that reveals a silver moon painting on the model's back, and another boasts one sleeve that looks exactly like a cornucopia made of black suede. Right now, Herb and Norma Fink of Theodore are trying to persuade the designer to come to Beverly Hills some time in July for the opening of the first Claude Montana boutique in the U.S.

His L.A. ovation awaits.

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