PUCCI PAST Those punchy prints are still present


IN 1970, there were few people on the beach who looked better than my mother in her pink Pucci bikini.

When we're together even today people can't believe that the petite, blonde woman is my mother. But in a bathing suit in the '60s and '70s -- in that Pucci bathing suit -- Mom was, well, a babe. A terribly fashionable babe.

Both my mother and grandmother sought out the bright, geometric patterns that are the trademark of Florentine designer Marchese Emilio Pucci di Barsento. Those shots of bright color were, I thought, totally out of character for two such conservative dressers.

But Pucci was chic. In my mom's closet, flashes of green, orange and fuchsia peeked out from rows of clothes in greys, blacks and beiges. I adored those colorful dresses and scarves, and longed for the day I could wear them myself.

And finally, 20 years later, it's arrived. Pucci (oh, boy!) is chic again.

The '60s nostalgia boom is in full force, and those geometric shapes and bright colors are everywhere: on the real thing in sensuous silks, and on copies in cotton headbands and Lycra leggings.

Designers like Gottex and Adrienne Vittadini have jumped aboard the Pucci bandwagon. Everywhere you turn, there's affordable Pucci-inspired clothing for the '90s.

And the look is just as hot the second time around.

Steve Estes, an employee at The Zone, a vintage and new clothing store in Baltimore, said the shop has ordered $1,400-worth of Pucci-inspired clothing, including skirts, dresses and leggings for the spring and summer.

"We had some of it here earlier, around Thanksgiving, and it sold out instantly," Estes says.

If you've got a Pucci lying around, but don't feel like wearing it yourself, you might think about taking it down to Retro Vintage Clothing in Fells Point. Owner Ron Barlow says that he has sold old Pucci dresses, with labels intact, for anywhere from $40 to $75.

"There are definitely people in the know who would come in to try to sell me a piece," he says.

Most of Barlow's requests for Pucci come from "the 30 and under crowd.

"They're generally people that are resonably affluent of have heard of the name," he says.

New for the '90s is perhaps the way Pucci has grown to encompass casual and day wear as well as the glamorous evening look for which it was intended. Young women, Estes says, mix and match Pucci prints with vintage clothes, and in New York, Pucci silk evening bags are carried during the day.

"There's a lot of mixing," agrees Barlow. "I think what is true in vintage in particular is that you can blend a number of periods . . . you can pull together an outfit that represents three decades."

According to Clare Tota, manager of New York's Emilio Pucci boutique, Pucci's next phase will include a variety of skirts, leggings, chiffon and silk jersey dresses. Two prints are also new for this decade, she says.

Tota's customers range in age from young girls wearing Pucci for the first time, to women who were wearing Pucci 20 years ago. One woman, who could no longer fit into her old Pucci things, bought five of the jersey dresses from the New York shop.

Lucky for me, both my mother and my grandmother had foresight. Either that, or they just couldn't bear to toss the expensive silk dresses and blouses with the brilliant colors.

Whatever the reason, I've made out like a Pucci bandit. I am now the proud owner of two of my grandmother's Pucci dresses with geometric patterns -- one green and one orange -- an evening dress that belonged to my mom, a couple of scarves and a fabulous blouse.

If only I could find that pink bikini.

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