Short cuts to spring

DRESS TO IMPRESS. Are women more likely to spend money on one designer piece than buying separates? Perhaps -- because the dress is the most popular garment at the spring collections. Baby-doll dresses that hug the bust and float over waist and hips give either a childlike or pregnant appearance,depending on to the voluptuousness of the model. Carolyne Roehm stuck massive crinolines under her baby dolls to create a portentously pregnant effect. Other favored dress shapes include the A-line worn as a graceful tunic over a slim skirt at Anne Klein and soft, drifting trapeze shapes at Michael Leva. Many of the girlish dresses have spaghetti straps, and all dress lengths for day are mid-thigh or higher, except for sweeping,mid-calf throwbacks to the 1950's seen at Isaac Mizrahi. Expect the thigh-high frocks to show up in stores a bit longer, but still clearing the knee.

BUBBLE TROUBLE. Balloon shaped dresses and skirts were the order of the day at Oscar de la Renta, and softly curving tulip shapes blossomed in Michael Leva's collection. Truth be told, the bubble look on the body is about as unflattering as the bubble hairdo.


HIT THE TRENCHES. A fleet of lady detectives hit the runways at Anne Klein, Nicole Miller and many other places,wearing black, white and neutral colored trench coats,all buttoned up and with legs to go. This trench coat may be borrowed from the boys, but its appeal is distinctly feminine. The mini trench coats wrap over matching mini-length dresses, capri pants or leggings. Don't count on much coverage from rain.

EASY GEOMETRY. Color blocking on sweaters,dresses and suits is dramatic, especially in the bold color combinations such as black, white and red favored at Anne Klein. Bill Blass shows diagonal and vertical blockings of pink, lime, white and baby blue for elegant suits and dresses. Op Art geometry with checkerboards,color blocking and exaggerated awning stripes characterized many collections,especially Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein. Abstract geometric prints of curves, circles and squares made the rounds from Geoffrey Beene to Nicole Miller, whose colorful bull's-eye design on a silk jacquard shift is right on target.


FLOWER POWER. Lilly Pulitzer-gone-luxe was the inspiration for the garden club prints that flecked dresses at Carolina Herrera, who designs for an already-ladylike set. Adrienne Vittadini, who designs for the the younger masses, could have lifted the green and white floral prints on short, swingy dresses straight off the Brady Bunch's patio furniture. Giant florals at Oscar de la Renta make a sweeping statement for evening and Bob Mackie used soft blue florals inspired by the song "Blue Hawaii" and embroidered, batik-based florals for sarong skirts.

BLACK AND WHITE. The classic go-together colors of black and white provide refreshing focus in the sea of baby pastels. The starring items of Nicole Miller's first show are short, eye-catching black and ivory checked pleated dresses and coats. Oscar de la Renta plays with black and white polka dots.

SAILING AWAY. Like the proverbial message in a bottle, sailor looks always bob up for spring. Classy white and navy fisherman-striped tunics over slim skirts opened Carolyne Roehm's grand show,and Anne Klein turned sailor-striped knits into workable jackets, sweaters and skirts. Moving right on into the water are swimsuits,the best seen in years. Maillots offer graceful coverage and have stylish bateau and halter necklines as well as with elegant back-strap effects. Suits are striped in the most elegant,seaworthy fashion and paired with clothes,such as jaunty navy linen play skirts at Carolyne Roehm. At Isaac Mizrahi, striped and dotted maillots are worn as lean little tops with jackets and pants.

PATENT ON PLASTIC. Just as was predicted in "The Graduate," plastics are it. While the world worries about how to recycle the material, designers are wrapping models in such items as a rhinestone-studded sheer plastic raincoat at Perry Ellis and flaring vinyl raincoats in white,black and silver from Yeohlee. You can play baseball in the rain in Isaac Mizrahi's patent leather baseball jacket or walk on the wild side in a stretch patent leather jumpsuit by Michael Kors. Simple patent belts at Nicole Miller and elaborate patent trim on dresses at Geoffrey Beene offer shine in lower doses.

PETER PAN SYNDROME. Fresh, white collars are the essence of girlishness, whether worn with demure suits at Carolina Herrera or a U-necked black jumper at Anne Klein. Michael Leva's Peter Pan collars floated like petals over garden-hued fly-away jackets. Isaac Mizrahi used big, white pilgrim collars for nostalgic flair atop tiny tops and sweeping skirts. The collars also were cute topping his gym suits, short white linen culotte dresses.

MEOW WOW. The catsuit continues its prowl into spring in various incarnations, this time without long sweaters to cover it up. Slim, shimmering pastel jumpsuits at Isaac Mizrahi are the stuff of the space age and are aptly called moonwalking suits by the designer. Michael Leva's kitten suit is a spaghetti strapped, thigh-high lingerie item worn under sheer,open-weave coats. Bob Mackie's toreador catsuit for evening is high necked,with a dramatic mesh midriff and tassel trim on the legs.

SHEERLY SEXY. Diaphanous chiffon is the stuff of oversized blouses at Adrienne Vittadini worn with just one button closed, in case you didn't get the message. Chiffon was draped into long, Grecian-inspired evening gowns at Bob Mackie. Less graphic were the lace blouses and tunics at many design houses, some with cut-out panels to let the air in. Swingy lace overdresses also were prominent, but thankfully with proper slip linings.

SUNSET PSYCHEDELICS. Red, orange and pink:who could forget that shocking '60s trinity, thrown together on a striped sleeveless top, a floral housedress,a patch-studded pair of bell bottoms? Designers such as Nicole Miller use red, coral and orange together for a nuclear sunset jacket, and cherry, tangerine, lemon and lime flavor the casual separates of Richard Mishaan.


HOT PANTS. Buns were bared in the tiniest, tightest shorts at Adrienne Vittadini. Nicole Miller and Norma Kamali showed hip-hugging bell bottoms. Among the best pants are slim gabardine capris at Isaac Mizrahi, and the colorful bicycle short races ahead at Richard Mishaan. This spring, pants are clearly going to be playful items for those with firm figures.

FLIPPING OUT. Short, flippy skirts make waists look slim and legs long -- just another part of the gamine's arsenal. Flouncy dance dresses at Carolina Herrera are reminiscent of the '50s, minus a few inches. The companion flip is the hairdo. Many models wore their hair sprayed and curled in "That Girl" fashion, with a thick hair band to hold it back. Companion beauty trends are false eyelashes and heavy blue eye shadow.