BY DESIGN : Cloak Encounters : Party Clothes Are Taking Wrap for Versatile Cover-Ups That Drape Dramatically


Evening wear will be under wraps for the holiday season's upcoming round of parties.

From sheer, fly-away chiffon shawls to faux mink stoles, wraps of all kinds are among the more versatile ways to top off party clothes.

Unlike a coat, wraps don't cover up an outfit--they complement it. Their unstructured shapes allow them to adapt to everything from cocktail suits to ball gowns.

Often nothing more than a rectangular piece of material, wraps can be wound around the body in a myriad styles. They can be flung dramatically over one shoulder or draped simply around the neck so the ends flow down the back. They can tie around the shoulders or hips.

"Evening wraps are very important this year. They're part of the new glamour," says Georgette Rubin, creative director and co-owner of Lillie Rubin in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. "They're popular because bare dresses are in."

Among Lillie Rubin's wraps for the holidays are fluffy marabou stoles in black, white or pastel hues ($190), a black faux beaver cape with a rhinestone clip closure ($185) and assorted chiffon scarves.

"The chiffon scarves are large and sheer, so you can just layer them over any dress," Rubin says. "It's part of the (see-through) lingerie look."

Wraps are not for the fashion timid. Wearing one well requires a bit of fashion daring.

"You have to have a sense of style to be able to just fling the wrap around your shoulders," Rubin says. "You have to throw caution to the wind."

Wraps range in style from the simple to the dramatic. Some have beaded accents all over; some have just a fringed border, and some are a plain swatch of material. A few have only a brushed gold ornament dangling from one of the four corners.

"Most are very minimal this season," says Ramin Hadjipour, manager of Devon Becke in Fashion Island Newport Beach. "Often there will be just a single ornament versus overall glitz."

Among the more understated wraps is Tadashi's simple black Lycra shawl with fringe around the edges ($118), available at Devon Becke in Fashion Island and Brea Mall.

"The Lycra fabric drapes beautifully," Hadjipour says.

Wrap fabrics run the gamut from lightweight sheer chiffons to the penne velvets and heavier knits used by Tadashi.

For dramatic entrances, there's A.J. Bari's black velvet wrap with a taffeta ruffle around the edges ($190) that can adorn the neck like a collar; a sleeveless black velvet cape by A.J. Bari with a satin hood ($390), and a black velvet shawl with gold tassel fringe by Tadashi ($118), all at Devon Becke.

"A wrap is more stylish and practical than a coat. You can still sit down and have dinner in a wrap, whereas a coat is rather copious," Hadjipour says.

Wraps also allow the wearer more creativity than coats.

"You can give a dress a totally different illusion depending on how you wear your wrap," Hadjipour says. "You can put the knot on the shoulder or in front, or you can accessorize a wrap with a brooch."

Wraps can change the entire look of an outfit, dressing up a plain suit or dress so that it can go from day to night. Ames carries elaborately beaded shawl collars that add sparkle to any garment. One comes in black silk with brushed matte gold beading, while another has jet beads sprinkled on sheer black silk (about $200-$250).

"They dress up the plainest of outfits," says Lainey Presson, manager of Ames in Brea Mall.

Other wrap styles at Ames include a black velvet stole ($58), tea-length black velvet cape ($148) and a crocheted black shawl with jet beads that seems to envelop the wearer in a sparkling net ($170).

"Wraps are good for keeping warm, but some people just wear them for coverage" when they don't want to bare too much skin, Presson says. "The chiffon ones are more decorative. They're like a security blanket."

Wraps can be worn day or night. Among the fashion-forward offerings at Mineral and Anastasia in Fashion Island are wraps of brushed cotton, faux fur and cashmere.

"Mixing textures is the story this season," says Ami Gharavi, owner of Mineral and Anastasia.

A wrap such as Amy Chang's imitation mink stole ($275) can be paired with black leather or lace or the season's hot shiny metallics. Other textures include Russell Bennett's bolero-style wrap of ultra-soft wool with black feather trim ($469), which makes an excellent cover-up for a lace slip dress, and Myrene de Premonville's pure cashmere cape ($589)--a perfect foil to a silver metallic miniskirt and vest.

"Wraps are cozier than jackets," Gharavi says. "They feel better, lighter, and they go over everything."

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