Give spring fashion an A.
That's A for A-line, the prevailing shape for women's skirts, coats and dresses this season.
If the A-line looks a bit familiar, it should. Though it is closely associated with the youthful, kicky clothes of the '60s, the A-line silhouette actually made its debut in 1955. It was the brainchild of the late French designer Christian Dior, who also built collections around the H shape and the Y shape.
It was another eight years before the A-line came into its own, though, thanks to young, forward-thinking French designers such as Andre Courreges and Pierre Cardin.
In their hands, the A-line dress became an indelible symbol of the 1960s, as much an emblem of the decade as the Beatles and "Easy Rider." (Just try to picture Twiggy wearing anything else.)
With the current '60s revival sweeping through the fashion industry, it's not surprising that Courreges is back in style. So, too, is his A-line.
And that's something women everywhere can appreciate, especially those who have suffered through the previous decade of tight, body-conscious clothes.
In contrast to show-no-mercy spandex dresses that fit like a second skin, the A-line dress is forgiving. It fits closely at the shoulders, then flares gently away from the body to the hem, which ends above the knee. Such a dress can hide a multitude of figure flaws, and it is especially kind to women who are bottom-heavy.
In soft, silky fabrics, the A-line is a feminine dream, swirling gently around the body for a romantic look. Bill Blass designed one such dress in hot pink silk, using several strings of pearls to connect the back of the dress to the front.
Other looks in the soft style include Nicole Miller's thigh-high tank dress made of blocks of bright silk and Adrienne Vittadini's sleeveless rayon shifts (often with matching coats) in vibrant shades of yellow, pink, chartreuse and midnight blue.
Sturdier fabrics give the A-line a different look. In his collection for Anne Klein, Louis Dell'Olio cut matching coats and dresses from wool gabardine. France's Claude Montana paired short A-line jackets with short A-line skirts done in crisp orange cotton. These garments, like Dell'Olio's, stand away from the body with architectural precision.
Some designers take the A-line even further with stiff fabrics. Vinyl, another blast from the '60s, is a natural for this look, and it turns up most frequently in A-line raincoats. For example, in his collection for Perry Ellis, Marc Jacobs trimmed clear vinyl coats with colorful edging and used them as evening coats.
Clearly, the A-line hasn't lost its appeal in the design world. Retailers believe their customers will find it just as compelling.