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A Wishful Blueprint for Fashion Utopia in the New Millennium

On the eve of the faux new millennium, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to make the world a better place. Sure, we’d like an end to wars, hunger, violence, disease and pestilence, but let’s focus on the really big issues: competent sales clerks, clothes that fit and malls that are fun to shop in. Here is our wish list for 2000:

* People dressing appropriately for special occasions. Events such as weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, plays, concerts and meeting the queen often call for dressing up. Some people, however, are only concerned with being comfortable and wearing what they like (i.e., jeans) without regard for anyone else. We’ve said this 100 times already, and we’ll probably say it 100 more: Clothing is about expressing your personal style as well as showing respect for your fellow human beings. It is not about spending thousands of dollars on designer labels. It is about being considerate. And if you’re unsure about what to wear to an event, ask the host or hostess.

* Stores and e-businesses that offer great customer service. The retail market is growing ever more crowded and competitive. So why is it sometimes so difficult to find a competent salesperson--or any salesperson, for that matter--in a store? Why is shopping on the Internet at times a frustrating and unnecessarily time-consuming activity? If businesses want customer loyalty, they’re going to have to earn it.

* A break from cookie-cutter shopping malls. Let’s face it--shopping has become deadly boring the past few years as malls continue to spring up, each identical to the one before it. The same chain stores and the same merchandise provide no thrills for shoppers. We applaud forward-thinking developers who are designing malls more as town squares than generic retail mega-plexes, but they need to go one step further and seek more independent retailers who offer consumers something they haven’t seen before.

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* Well-made, reasonably priced clothes. It’s a given that expensive clothes usually have quality tailoring, fabric and fit. It’s also a given that Americans love inexpensive clothes. The trade-off, unfortunately, is often inferior fabric and bad workmanship. Because people in this country have to wear clothes in public, it would be nice if this new millennium saw affordable items that hold up longer than a season or two.

* A bigger range of sizes. We realize that it would be hideously expensive for manufacturers to produce clothes for every size imaginable, from short to tall, thin to wide, and everything in between. But people are not one size fits all, and those who don’t fit in the “average” or “normal” range of most clothing lines must hunt down specialty stores, catalogs and Web sites trying to find something that fits and looks good. We’re seeing some progress with the increasing availability of petite, plus and tall sizes for women and big and tall for men, but the increase has been slow. Let’s hope not only that those designing and making clothes vary their size range, but that technology makes manufacturing them easier and less costly.

* No more slaves to fashion. Clothes should be fun, not a religious experience. Those who pray at the altars of pricey boutiques and specialty stores, and worship design idols such as Armani, Lauren and Prada may fall prey to an empty life of silly trends and overpriced accessories. So what if you’re always the first to wear the latest whatnot from Paris? Is that what you want your obituary to read? The rest of us have a life; we suggest you find one too.

* An end to super-young, super-skinny supermodels. The world would be such a wonderful place if mainstream fashion magazines used models who are over 16 and have had a good meal in the last 24 hours. We’re not holding our breath waiting for a size 14 to grace the cover of Vogue, but would civilization crumble if models didn’t look like stick figures with clothes?

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Write to Fashion Police, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, fax to (213) 237-4888, or send e-mail to socalliving@latimes.com.


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