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YEAR IN, YEAR OUT : O.C. STYLE-WATCHERS ANTICIPATE FRESH AND FLATTERING LOOK FOR 1994

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The year isn’t quite over, but already some of the ballyhooed fashions of 1993 seem like a New Year’s Day hangover.

One can only guess how future generations will judge a fashion phenomenon like the monastic look that attempted with little success to dress the modern woman in a nun’s habit. And even when it was all the rage this fall, much of that crushed velvet stuff had a kind of cheap, morning-after feeling. Bell-bottoms, meanwhile, have expired like an old calendar.

Similar fashion foibles are bound to be repeated in ’94, but some fresh and flattering looks are in the works, too. Orange County style-watchers have their own ideas about what’s coming and going for the new year. Among their predictions:

* Great Lengths: Short-short skirts are back, says Mary Eller, manager and buyer for Mel’s in Laguna Niguel.

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The 19-inch skirt that ends at mid-thigh will be in vogue.

“It hits six inches above the knee. When you sit down, it’s still feminine and in good taste,” she says. The short skirts will be worn with heavier stockings--either semi-opaque or opaque hose, often in the same color as the skirt.

“It gives a much nicer line” to the body, Eller says.

* Soft Dressing: Layers of softly constructed garments will be the look for women.

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“There will be softer suiting instead of constructed jackets with hard lines,” Eller says. “Jackets will have smaller, natural shoulders with wider sleeves, and they’ll be cut longer to go over a short skirt or soft, fluid trouser leg.”

Soft styles should not be confused with saggy, shapeless dresses a la the waif look. Waifs are out, says William Christiansen, owner of Rakish in Tustin. In Orange County, they were never quite in.

* Relaxed Menswear: Men’s suits and sport coats are “getting away from the more angular, rigid looks to a softer, rounder, more relaxed feeling,” says Art Wirtz, merchandise manager of Alex Sport and Alex Sebastian in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa.

“In the past jackets had very broad shoulders--almost a wedge shape. Now they have softer shoulders with less padding and softer construction throughout the body,” he says.

Double-breasted suits will continue to decline in popularity, predicts Robert Haroutounian, clothing buyer for Art’s Tailoring in Brea. Last year they made up 75% of the store’s suit inventory; in 1993 that figure dropped to 25%. He expects more single-breasted, one- or three-button suits and sport coats for ’94.

* Pants Get Loose: Men’s pants will be softly constructed but not baggy.

“Mega-pleats are gone,” Haroutounian says. Pants with two pleats will be the ideal, he says. In their baggier days, some pants had up to four pleats.

In addition, pant legs will no longer taper in at the ankles. From the knee down, they’ll be fuller, he says.

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“The zoot suit look is out.”

* Pants for Women: Pants in any width, from leggings to palazzos, will be a hot item for women wanting to skirt the skirt length issue, Christiansen says. Soft, wide-legged pants are a carry-over from ’93.

Don’t confuse the wider legs with the ‘70s-inspired bell-bottoms that fit tight on top and flare out at the knees.

“I think the ‘70s are dead,” Eller says.

* Dresses Are Back: Long, fluid dresses are one of the ’93 success stories that will continue next year, Eller says. Mel’s will layer some of the longer dresses--putting a lightweight dress that falls to the ankles underneath one that is several inches shorter.

* Colors: Soft, muted hues inspired by nature are the palette for men and women. There’s nothing harsh about the new shades.

Pastel shades such as peach, winter white and pale greens will appear in spring collections for women, Christiansen says.

For men, earth tones such as taupe and sand that “lend themselves to natural construction” will be seen in suits and sport coats, Wirtz says.

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Black will still be around, but it won’t be as ubiquitous as it was in ’93.

“This year it’s rich browns in everything from silks to rayons,” Eller says. “But it’s a dark enough brown so it can be worn with white.”

* Raw Silk: Natural fabrics such as silk, linen and cotton will be strong for spring, Christiansen says. Fabrics will have a soft, often washed texture.

The crisp white cotton blouse that was such a hit for women in ’93 will be replaced by white blouses of softer materials, Eller says.

A new generation of linen blends that wrinkle less and drape softer will make their way into menswear, Wirtz says.

* Vests: Vests for both sexes are one of 1993’s enduring fashion legacies, says Rose LeDonne, owner of the Rose LeDonne women’s and children’s boutique in Laguna Niguel. Vests are versatile. They can be worn day or night, short or long--even down to the ankles. One promising look: mixing a long shirt with a short cropped vest and flowing pants or a putting a long vest with a long tunic.

* Ties: Think small when it comes to tie patterns, Wirtz says. Small, neat geometric prints will be strong. Ties with big, floral patterns are dead.

* Accessories: Long but delicate necklaces such as a single strand of glass beads or cut crystal will be hot, Eller says. Heavy metal necklaces and bracelets look dated.

“Chunk is out, period,” she says.

* Boots: Ankle boots fitted so they show off the foot and ankle are a smart investment for the new year, Eller says. Heavy combat boots? “Forget it. That’s for someone under 21,” she says. “The only exception is a pair of Doc Martens with jeans. They can be worn at any age.”

* Denim: “I’m always surprised by how many pairs of jeans women will own,” Eller says. “They’re popular 12 months out of 12, year in and year out.”

Denim shirts, however, have reached their saturation point, she says. Washed linen shirts will take their place.


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