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For Fall: A Pastiche of Color, Easy Shapes

Times Fashion Editor

As fall ready-to-wear shows began here in the Louvre courtyard tents, American retailers’ hopes were high that costs would be more tolerable than last season and increased creativity would make the high prices seem worthwhile. The opening showings on Wednesday and Thursday only partly filled that bill.

Lacroix’s lively patchworks of exotic colors--mustard, moss, orange, blue, brown, pink and red--were worked into a variety of swingy knit shapes, long fitted coats with skirts or pants, pleated sheath dresses and even knickers with vests and jackets.

Well-received evening skirts were made of brightly colored vertical bands of crushed velvet. Only a very self-confident woman could wear these pastiches of pattern and color as the designer showed them. But judging from persistent outbreaks of applause during the show, there are plenty of self-assured women around.

Upbeat, Sun-Drenched Colors

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Thursday’s highlight was the upbeat, almost spring-like collection by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons. The show started in the Japanese designer’s usual dark grays, blacks and blues, but then blossomed into sun-drenched combinations of buttercup yellow, soft green and purple, as appropriate for Easter as for Thanksgiving.

Capes in all permutations are a big trend here so far and Kawakubo contributes her share. Jackets in dark or bright colors were carved into short or long cape shapes or shaped like bellhop tops, cutaways, or tail coats (with short fronts and long backs).

Lacy knit sweaters in white or brights were in tent shapes that hung slightly away from the body or in short bubble forms with puffy sleeves. These were shown with ankle-length pleated or dirndl skirts and with some flaring skirts with puffy, quilted bands above the hem to give an even floatier effect. Jumpsuits with ruched, fitted torsos were bloused over the bosom and had straight, wide legs. The show ended with the same somber shades in which it began, but the dark clothes were cheered by primitive drawings of little birds flying up and down the jacket sleeves or around the skirts’ hems.

For evening, Kawakubo did a double-take on the current street fashion of shorts. Hers are of shiny metallic fabric--in copper, pewter or gold, worn with sheer white or black organza bubble tops that pouf out from shoulder to waist.

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Hard to Duplicate

Dawn Mello of Bergdorf Goodman in New York pronounced the collection “fabulous.” Bernie Ozer, vice president of Associated Merchandising Corp., added it would be hard to duplicate the designer’s ideas in less-expensive price ranges because “no one can make a $40 junior blouse out of $100-per-yard fabric such as the designer uses in her tops.”

Yohji Yamamoto, who showed Thursday too, splashed just a few touches of red, cinnamon and orange into his basic black, blue and white palette. Capes showed up here too, as stole-like cover-ups and full-fledged coats.

Yamamoto’s loose, princess-shape coatdresses, his short and long jumpers with carved-out sides and his one-piece short suits were all shown with dark body stockings, tights and flat shoes.

The Hot Ticket

Patrick Kelly, the Paris transplant from Vicksburg, Miss., was a hot ticket. Kelly, who just a few years ago sold his button-decorated dresses on city streets, has now been backed by the Warnaco Corp. for about 18 months. In that time his gross earnings have shot from $795,000 to $5.2 million, his designs are distributed to such stores as Bullock’s, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, and his sense of humor has taken a Las Vegas turn.

Models in garish feather headdresses strutted their stuff as if they were showgirls at Caesars Palace. Huge Eiffel Towers were etched in rhinestones on slinky black jersey shifts. Red plastic lips puckered-up on more black jersey dresses. Charm-bracelet hearts dangled on others, and silvered-leather fringe on cowgirl suits looked ready for Tina Turner’s next video escapade. But in among all these extravagances were some fine, simple dresses and suits for daytime and evening.

For Daytime Wear

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The best for daytime were slim, body-hugging cape-collared dresses or swing-jacketed jersey outfits with narrow skirts that ended just above the knee. For evening, Kelly’s best ideas were executed in figure-revealing stretch velvet decorated with colorful jeweled patches.

Retailers said they especially liked the cape-collared daytime knits, which will sell for about $600. Prices escalate to about $2,000 for Kelly’s more decorative styles, and suits will cost about $1,500 when they reach retail store racks. As Patrick Kelly president Mary Ann Wheaton pointed out before the show, these are bargain prices compared with those of some French designers whose off-the-rack jackets sell separately for $1,500 and up.

Line for Spring

Kelly will inaugurate a less-expensive clothing line for spring, 1990. He follows in the footsteps of Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Gianfranco Ferre and other Europeans who have found, all altruism aside, that Americans simply won’t pay such high prices for even the classiest ready-made clothes.

From the Past

Lolita Lempicka showed right before Kelly. This 30-year-old designer has built a reputation in the last two years for designing what retailers call “terrific suits.” Lempicka’s fall collection is perfect for a Ralph Lauren-ized, Laura Ashley-fied American market, which is primed for a remembrance of things past.

Antique-looking lace collars and cuffs decorate rose-color suit jackets on which tiny fabric-covered buttons slip into delicate loops instead of buttonholes. The jackets are long and fitted to the body, in softly feminine fabrics and colors that look musty and old. A Spanish-inspired group in eggplant purple features short jackets decorated with gold frogs, gold ball fringe and gold buttons.

The clothes are pretty period pieces that may well find a big following in America for fall. But it’s a good bet that most U.S. women will not waltz into their offices in ankle-length accordion-pleated skirts that look like they came from the set of a Cecil Beaton film.

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A good bet, but not a sure one. Some of the most unlikely fashion ideas seem to make it into real life, as illustrated by what many French women are wearing on the city streets.

The “in” look here is shorts. In leather, stretch fabric or denim. Parisian females are decked out for the cold, blustery days in short pants worn above woolly tights, topped off by a wide variety of jackets--everything from down parkas to beautifully tailored blazers. This look came off the French fashion runways a few seasons back, and experts predicted it was a style whose time would never come.

Actress Jane Seymour was the big attention-getter at both the Patrick Kelly and Christian Dior shows. Seymour, in a red-and-black jersey dress by Kelly and a big, black picture hat, was with her mother, who wore a classic Dior suit. It looked much like those that came down the runway for next fall. That is to say, it had a precisely tailored square jacket and a slim straight skirt that ended at the knee. When Marc Bohan, who designs for Dior, veered from this look, the results were interesting but not good enough to elicit much applause.

A pretty, Wedgwood blue, short jacket closed with toggles and sported a hood. And some very handsome jackets with straight fronts and swing backs were teamed with short or ankle-length skirts. Bohan showed plenty of sweaters and sweater vests, the prettiest for evening. These were of dark colors with glittery Lurex threads, in shrink-to-fit shapes with no shoulder pads. They were shown with slim skirts to the knee. For evening, Bohan chose black velvet in form-fitting styles, some with sweetheart necklines and others with long, sheer billowy sleeves.

The showings continue through the weekend.


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