Fashion 88 : A New Look for the Good Old Basics

Times Staff Writer

The basics have taken on a daring look for 1988 . . . it's almost as if mainstream fashion suddenly got hip.

For men, mainstream items include bomber-style jackets, white shirts without buttons on the collar and navy blue blazers cut closer to the body. "We're getting away from the boxy look," Martin Fischer, vice president of Saks Fifth Avenue, says.

For women, silk flowers are back among the fundamentals, since Paris designer Christian Lacroix started pinning them to everything from hips to hat brims. And high-heel pumps are replacing flat shoes as a fashion basic this year, although flats will still be in style. More adventurous types are already going higher, buying stiletto heels. Trend setters will probably wear high-heel sling backs instead of pumps.

A list of what everybody and their grandmothers will wear this year even includes dress-up exercise shoes for after exercising.

But the biggest shocker has to be short skirts. Just last summer women said they would never bare their knees again. But they're not saying that anymore. There's a new cocktail dress to consider. It is short and strapless, says Noddie Weltner, coordinator of special events for I. Magnin. "A year ago," she recalls, "it was understated, ultrasophisticated and long ."

And it was basic black. But the newer direction in all of women's fashion is toward color--extra bright for fashion front runners.

"Trousers, Katharine Hepburn-looking things," says Bullocks Wilshire's Rosemarie Troy, are being worn again by women. This spring trousers are the hot new thing, but by next fall they'll be mainstream pieces. Troy, the store's fashion-merchandise director, is talking about man-tailored pants with zippers and cuffs in supple, not stiff, fabrics.

She also says knee-grazing shorts will be a basic item starting this summer. "They're for women who truly would not bare their knees when they're wearing skirts," she says.

The Broadway's fashion director, Lee Hogan Cass, agrees about the shorts. In summer, she predicts, the sort of women Troy describes will actually venture out of the barbecue pit and wear shorts to the office, with a tailored jacket for a career look called a city-shorts suit.

Shoppers are "getting more daring, within their conservative ways," says Saks Fifth Avenue's Fischer. That's saying a lot, considering Fischer and most other store VPs are cautious about predicting change.

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