It's a pleasure to look at filmy organza jackets, shiny pink jeans and rhinestone-encrusted swimwear when the temperature hovers at 90 degrees. It seems as if summer vacation is still to come.
And so it was last weekend as California designers showed their women's 1996 spring and summer collections in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, we'll be wearing wool and ringing in the new year before we get our hands on these clothes.
The fashion flock--press and store buyers--traveled Downtown to the California Mart and squished shoulder bag to shoulder bag into tents erected on the parking lot.
They dutifully trooped to a fund-raiser to honor Los Angeles designer Karen Kane, to the Biltmore to see swimwear and to the freshly tarted up Beverly Hills Hotel for an awards dinner.
The runway shows on Saturday and Sunday divided the women-who-have from the girls-who- haven't. Anyone with personal recollections of the '60s Kennedy assassinations have worn these clothes before--demure princess-bodice dresses with matching coats, mod petrochemical fabrics and flared jeans with tight-fitting jackets.
"A dress may make you and me think Jackie O," said Bonnie McAllister, 'Teen magazine fashion editor, "but the new generation looks at it and thinks, 'cute dress.' " They've never had a chance to wear vinyl jackets that feel like a personal sweat lodge and jeans so tight you have to lie down to zip them.
The generation gap was never more apparent than in the shows devoted exclusively to junior lines, a first for the California Collections. "Juniors and swimwear are what California is known for," said Corky Newman, the Mart's CEO, "it's time they were included."
Indeed, the junior (sizes 3 to 15) and young contemporary (sizes 4 to 14) labels account for half of the women's apparel business in Los Angeles, said Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Assn.
Fashion editors from the teen magazines YM, 'Teen, Seventeen and Sassy took in second-skin shantung pants and jackets from Born in America, neon stretch jeans from Studio Jini and hip-belted Lurex denim dresses from Moe Clothing.
"California designers have their finger on what kids want," said Rhondi Cooler, fashion editor of New York-based YM. For parents who wonder what that is, Cooler translates: They want the clothes they see in music videos, TV shows and movies.
"It has a lot to do with the movie 'Clueless,' " McAllister said of the looks for spring. "Girlie girls are back in a big way. Hair and makeup are done, and the clothes are feminine. Grunge is gone."
Uniform-inspired dresses from decades past appear to be the last holdouts of the blue-collar trend. A short red hip-belted stewardess style from Madhouse and a satin car-hop frock with a short full skirt from Jeannie Nitro were fun stuff, if you've never worked in the food services industry.
For women who have done-that and worn-those, there were beautifully constructed knee-length dresses paired with knee-length coats from BCBG designed by Max Azira, who received the California Designer of the Year award Sunday night. Michael Glasser got the Rising Star award for his 3-year-old Democracy line of very casual Tencel separates.
With so much emphasis on '60s heritage, suits were scarce, leaving many working women with a choice of jackets paired with pants or shorts or dresses worn with coats. Skirts of all lengths were often shown with such weekend wear as close-to-the-body short tops or transparent blouses.
Janet Howard's collection labeled Misc. was a study in transparency. She covered sheer white blouses with translucent white stretch plastic jackets and paired them with narrow white vinyl pants. Artful seaming and interfacing placement provided tiny modesty panels in her white organza wrap jackets and sheer organza jeans. Not so subtle was the white bias-cut movie-star gown worn on the catwalk by former porn star Traci Lords.
Arnelle Simpson, who works as a music video stylist, and Heidi Fleiss, who has a line of lingerie, were just two of the famous faces on the front row for Howard's collection.
Only the swimwear show elicited as much neck-craning. Here, a heavy glam quotient kicked in. Rhinestones encrusted elegant brown suits made of layers of transparent fabrics from Anne Klein. The red satin tank top and bikini bottom from Sunset Beach, brown bikini a-dangle with copper pennies from Mossimo Giannulli's new Signature collection and Sirena's silver tank were all appropriate for Cinderella's ready-for-the-beach ball.
Dark espresso brown--the color we're not supposed to strive for in our tans--was quite prevalent in swimsuits. Elsewhere, Easter egg pastels and papal white dominated. Ramp-side, the fashion folk were in head-to-toe black, but they've got all winter to wean themselves of that old habit.