The Last Word(s) on 1987 : ‘Down': the Dollar; ‘Up': Hemlines; ‘Hot': Designer Lacroix

Times Staff Writer

How did 1987 shape up? Let us count the ways. Hemlines rose on designer runways, but it took almost a year for women over 18 to buy the idea. Among notable mature knees in the vanguard were those of feminist Gloria Steinem.

Auctions made headlines. The late Duchess of Windsor’s jewels were sold by Sotheby’s in Geneva, bringing a record $50,281,887 and setting off a wave of costume jewelry copies. (Elizabeth Taylor successfully bid $565,000 by phone from Los Angeles for one of the duchess’s brooches.)

Brigitte Bardot, sex symbol of the ‘50s, received a five-minute ovation at her own auction of personal effects, raising about $580,000 for a new animal-protection foundation. A grateful Bardot told the Paris crowd of more than 1,000: “I gave my beauty and my youth to men. Now I am giving my wisdom and experience . . . to animals.”

His much-copied pouff skirts and other “baby doll” looks made Christian Lacroix haute couture’s hottest name. When he left Patou to open his own salon, U.S. stores vied for the goods. Locally, Saks won and threw a multicharity bash to show off his couture and $2,000-$13,000 ready-to-wear.


Postscript: Lacroix’s French mannequins wanted saddle shoes, reportedly the rage in Europe. A Saks executive called a parochial school for the right source, put the models in a limousine and sent them off to the nearest Thom McAn.

European clothes became outrageously expensive because of the dollar’s drop. And even American-designer price tags gave shoppers a shock. An average Anne Klein fall suit, for example, cost just over $1,000 at local stores (jacket $500, skirt $200, blouse $350).

Movie fashions made an impact. Kevin Costner and the other “Untouchables” dressed for Prohibition in Giorgio Armani wardrobes. Diane Keaton undid dress-for-success myths with her soft and feminine “Baby Boom” office wear. Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen put the snap back in suspenders and slicked-back hair with their portrayals of “Wall Street” cheats.

It was the year of stretch, when designers put elastic into velvet, satin, lace and gabardine. Neoprene, the wet-suit material, became the fabric of swimsuits and miniskirts.


Time meant so much to so many. There were watches on shoes, watches on belts, watches on watches. Swatch came to town and painted table tops at Venice Beach to look like their latest model--the pop Swatch.

Elsewhere, hourly extravagance knew no bounds: Hublot’s gold and sapphire diving watch, with expandable black rubber band to fit over a wet suit, sold for $11,000. Gerald Genta introduced the gold Gefica Sahara for $135,000. And the International Watch Corp. launched its Da Vinci model ($15,000) with the promise that if worn constantly it would tell perfect time well into the next century.

But the clock stopped when Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty let it be known they wear Timex.

The year’s scandals had a modicum of style: Fawn Hall caused a slight stir with her shredded shag. Oliver North’s version of the classic Marine cut became known as the “Ollie.” Tammy Faye Bakker remained faithful to her awning eyelashes despite an image makeover. And Donna Rice’s fling as model for No Excuses jeans ended when Gary Hart re-entered the presidential race.

The Russians kept coming: Top Soviet designer Viyacheslav Zaitsev showed his styles at the Waldorf Hotel in New York, where they landed with the thud of an old blini . His most famous customer, Raisa Gorbachev, however, emerged as a capitalist consumer who allegedly shops with an American Express Gold card. Hubby Mikhail, no fashion slouch either, reportedly dropped a bundle in Rome for suits by Italian tailor Franco Litrico.

The fashion community took action against AIDS, with fund-raisers, public awareness campaigns and garments with discreet pockets for condoms.

More celebrities joined the designer-label crowd: Vanna White with special-occasion dresses, Joan Collins with lingerie. Elizabeth Taylor peddled Passion for $165 an ounce. Marlo Thomas put her name on a scent. Fred Hayman sold Giorgio to Avon, and Gale Hayman, his former wife, launched a line of mail-order cosmetics.

Ralph Lauren and Adrienne Vittadini both opened on Rodeo Drive, where Lina Lee was having financial problems.


In a flurry over fur, the Miss Universe pageant directors granted show host and animal-rights activist Bob Barker his wish: Finalists wore fake furs over their swimsuits.

In the year’s romantic style category, few could compete with Dr. Robert Jarvik. For his marriage to Marilyn vos Savant (the world’s most intelligent woman, according to the Guinness Book of Records), he made the wedding rings out of pyrolytic carbon and gold, two of the materials used for the Jarvik-7 artificial heart.