Fashions on iceDesigners like Yves St. Laurent...


Fashions on ice

Designers like Yves St. Laurent have it easy compared with Jef Billings, costume designer for the Ice Capades, which open Feb. 20 at the Baltimore Arena.

According to Mr. Billings, who's been designing for the ice show for five years, everyday clothing design is based on trends and desires, whereas in skating, costume design must be based on the material and the show itself.

"It's much more creative, and more elaborate. It's one of a kind," he says.

He must come up with spectacular designs that can be seen across the arena, yet all the fabrics have to be waterproof, feather light, and extremely durable. He has to make the openings large enough for skates to fit through and the $l costumes flexible enough to accommodate all the gymnastics required of the skaters. On top of that, the costumes must be so durable that they can be packed and repacked hundreds of times a year.

Mr. Billings has discovered that synthetics and polyesters are most versatile for his use -- they repel water and don't wrinkle or rot.

First it was the return of sheer fabrics several seasons ago that heralded a new emphasis on the female form and allowed women to show off their healthy, well-toned bodies. Well, almost show off -- but not quite. The diaphanous organzas and filmy chiffons acted somewhat as veils, hinting rather than totally revealing.

Then came shorter and shorter skirts, bare midriffs and a preponderance of sleeveless jackets, dresses and tops that showed more and more skin.

Now, for this spring and summer, designers have come up with even more ingenious means of baring a bit or a lot of body. Slices have been carved from some dresses, backs have been scooped out, dresses have had portions whittled away so that they look like separates rather than one-piecers.

Designer Carolyne Roehm says, "others may believe that the legs are the last to go, but, for me, the back stays young-looking the longest and is truly beautiful. Baring it can be provocative but never really vulgar."

Some of the more interesting means of cutting into clothes are examples from Nicole Miller (who designed numerous neckline treatments that give the effect of a necklace being worn with a strapless dress) and Michael Kors (many of his dresses actually look like strapless tops with skirts, though they're joined at some point)

@ As expected, one of the most prominent trends in this year's American Crafts Council Fair "wearable art" selections is an ecological theme.

This year, though, it's not just through the use of "correct" alternatives to endangered skins and woods that this sensibility is expressed. A more literal celebration of Mother Earth is embraced in the representation of trees, wild animals, and schools of fish and sharks and other life from the seas. You can see for yourself during the fair's 15th annual visit in Baltimore, Feb. 22-24, at the Convention Center.

The ACC has decided to express its support for the use of cruelty-free and environmentally sound materials by not calling for a ban, as they did last year with ivory. "It only increases the value of the endangered materials," explains ACC spokeswoman Roseann Glick. Rather, the group is calling for the use of substitute and harvested materials in place of those found in the wild.

Donna Peremes

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