FASHION: FALL ISSUE : Dressing for Dinner : Dining Out Means Seeing and Being Seen, and Part of the L. A. Restaurant Experience Includes Sitting at Tables Dressed as Well as Patrons Are

TIMES SOCIETY WRITER

Dining in Los Angeles is nothing less than a theatrical experience. People dress for the occasion because they intend to be seen, as well as to see. Restaurants "dress" too, priding themselves on decor that ranges from sleek high-tech to colorful south-of-the-border. In fact, style for the restaurant, as well as the patrons, is key.

Since all the posing and positioning goes on just above the flatware, anyone serious about cutting the right image over dinner can not be content with the concept of a simple dinner dress.

Designers have rallied to the cause, with glamorous dresses and evening suits that show off plenty of skin where it counts--above the table. Dresses and suits with decollete show off a toned bust line.

Faux jewels and pearls are piled on, and there can be even more drama with '60s-inspired hairstyles, sometimes, at least, created with wigs.

Basic black has become too basic, given that many of these clothes are made in colors that seem to glow: lime green, sapphire, crimson, winter white and emerald.

But women won't be the only ones winning raves for their outfits; the best-dressed tables this fall will be wardrobed in various costumes, from garden bouquets to crystal balls to gilded cherubs. And there won't be a stuffed shirt in the bunch.

L.A.'s party planners have declared the end to the stuffy, formal table setting. While elegance is still the feeling all want to evoke, no one is suggesting starched white napkins and silver candlesticks. Ethnic themes, vibrant color and unconventional centerpieces are in vogue.

Randy Fuhrman of Creative Concept catering has designed an autumn setting he describes as playful and inviting.

The topiary centerpiece incorporates fresh red roses lightly sprayed with copper and bronze paint; the table, with place settings from Classic Party Rentals, is strewn with apple-scented potpourri, and gilded cherubs accent the floral lame tablecloth.

"I find black very romantic," said Fuhrman, who designed the 25th wedding anniversary party last year for Creative Artists Agency's Bill Haber.

Parties Plus, another party planner and caterer, uses an Oriental theme with black and gold brocade obi-like runners, black plates, black napkins tied with antique gold tassels, chopsticks, red lacquer soy sauce containers, and a tall, asymmetrical orchid centerpiece set in antique Chinese tea holders. "I think that table-top design is going to be the trend of the '90s," said Julie Loshen of Parties Plus. Loshen is a veteran of numerous film premieres and will be doing the Maple Center's fund-raiser this fall as well as the opening of the Harry Winston store on Rodeo Drive.

"Ethnic food has become very important," she added, "and the role Indochinese food is playing in California is tremendous."

Colin Cowie's modernistic table setting "commands a great sense of formality, but (it's) incredibly contemporary," said the man responsible for Hugh Hefner's wedding party decor. "I think we created a very serious look by using a few materials--a less-is-more type of deal. I love the idea of putting inexpensive crushed glass with antique silver. You can break the rules."

The table also incorporates silver lame napkins, Christofle silver chargers and a row of crystal balls.

Vivid colors highlight the table top created by Sharon Sacks of Just Call Sharon, who will be doing the premiere party for Castle Rock film production company's premiere of "Misery" in December. She uses floral-patterned Dresden china (from Foster-Ingersoll), mirroring those flowers with David Jones' floral centerpieces set in silver snail-shaped vases. Aqua-blue Pratesi linens were set atop a stone-colored table. "Most of the major linen companies like Pratesi are realizing that people want color," said Sacks. "And something like this doesn't have to be overly expensive."

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