Think Iridescence


Don't Forget Grey!

By Carter B. Horsley

Browsing through an associate's women's fashion catalogue from Saks Fifth Avenue several months ago, I was struck by the fact that it actually had some very beautiful clothes in it.

I don't normally peruse such literature as for the past couple of decades most women's fashion as trumpeted in the magazines has seem uninspired, if not usually unattractive.

I happen not to be a woman, so my sensitivity and consciousness admittedly have not ascended in all aesthetic directions.

Chanel ecru suitLike most men, I believe, great fashion is Chanel, Fortuny, Issey Miyake, and Pisanello (the Italian Renaissance painter), and was $25 Izod polo shirts, though I deeply regretted giving as gifts a scarf by Bill Blass and another by Yves St. Laurent a few decades ago. The "House" of Chanel, incidentally, continues to produce magnificent fashions as can be seen in the photograph at the right, which has been altered slightly to remove the catalogue text that explained that the ecru suit in vicose rayon/cotton/acrylic costs $3,305. Here the spirit of the classic Chanel suit and its marvelous textures have been retained but made even more sensuous with the jacket's one top bottom permitting more freedom and the tight, longer skirt more form-fitting.

Having sat a few desks away from Bernardine Morris at The New York Times for a while, I cannot claim not to recognize a few designers' names, but anyone who has met me knows that I am not now, and have never been, fashionable. My classmates' parting notes in my Trinity School yearbook (class of '57) all either remarked on the hope that I get some sleep, or the haunting memory of my clashing attire.

So when my officemate's copy of the new "Defining Style" February 1999 edition of a fashion catalogue from Saks Fifth Avenue arrived, I grabbed it, put on my spectacles and began to slowly turn the pages. It did not start off well and I was about to get back to work as it was not until page 49 that I spied something interesting: the top of a teal embroidered jersey skirt in acetate/nylon, priced at $195 by Anna Sui. The rich color was fine, but the top of the skirt had little loops and the hang of the skirt seemed to sensuously dip just a bit above the navel. The rest of the outfit was color-coordinated but too strong for the subtlety of the skirt.

Before discovering that skirt, however, one was affronted by a particularly unattractive backpack and matching boot in dark brown leather and natural canvas by Prada, for $700 and $720, respectively, that seemed suited only for Hannibal Lechter.

Some items, such as a camel color alligator tote by Judith Leiber for $4,975, and a Strenesse Gabriele Strehle khaki cotton fitted jacket for $780, were just overpriced and nothing special.

One of the more reasonable items was a pink freshwater pearl illusion necklace by Carolee for $250 that was very elegantly strung and had nice iridescence.

Iridescence is always attractive, but often in the past it has seemed either flashy or cheap. New materials however may be the answer to why the best items in the catalogue were iridescent such as the sky blue big shirt and tank dress in rayon/polyester/nylon, shown below, by Linda Allard for Ellen Tracy Dresses for $755. The dress was simple, but the shirt is sensational, and powerful with big cuffs and collar. Another standout was the iridescent green cotton inverted pleat dress from Geromiino by Stephen DiGeromino, a simple, bare-armed sheath with one large center inverted pleat for only $190. The iridescence here was minimal but the cut of the dress is very fine and it would probably be even more attractive in ruby or turquoise.

Iridescent big shirt by Linda Allard for Ellen Tracy Dresses

Iridescence is usually associated with sleek glitter and glamor and Chanel has an iridescent rose organza bag accented with matte silvertone for $900. The small purse, however, was not too dazzling and would have been a perfect accessories for DKNY's marvelous tulip silk organza pleated full-length skirt that was only priced at $200. Dolce & Gabbano had a pair of silver hologram leather slingback shoes for $520 that would have been a fine complement to the iridescent shirt.

Shinin Guild coatGrey was the one color that stood out in this catalogue, the most notable example being Shinin Guild's grey earth linen coat, shown at the left, for $795. (This picture was cropped to cut out the text but the catalogue picture actually cropped out the model's head for inexplicable reasons.) What is fantastic about this coat, apart from its superb cut, is the texture and the way it falls but creates very dark silhouettes at its folds as can be seen around the model's left arm. This is supremely Oriental and magnificent. Similar but not quite so stunning was a heather grey wool shirt by Mondi for $180. In a slightly different, pin-stripe vein, Dana Buchman had drawstring pants for $210 that were very striking but also casually fun in contrast with the rather blatant pinstripes of a very long viscose/rayon/mohair/wool jacket with four buttons and a high label for $355 by Philippe Adec that was too stylish.

Probably the sexiest item in the catalogue was an apricot tie-neck suede blouse from Ralph by Ralph Lauren for $898 that was, for a change, not derivative, and was perfect for women with beautiful shoulders, one of the most underrated parts of a female's anatomy and one of the reasons why many men don't look at fashion magazines with skinny, bony models.

Other highlights included a white and pink rose beaded chiffon dress with ivory chiffon stole in rayon/silk for $480 by Kay Unger and Adrienne Landau's exquisite cream embroidered and beaded silk stole for $325.





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