Street-wise leather now seen in the best places


Let us now praise fashion's newest role model, the bad girl in black leather.

She's Ann-Margret in "Kitten with a Whip." She's the Shangri-La who dated "The Leader of the Pack." She's that intriguing girl from Catholic school who always wore a motorcycle jacket over her plaid pleated skirt.

As the Shangri-Las used to sing, sort of, "She's good-bad, but she's not evil."

Which is precisely the look you're after if you like many of New York's top women's wear designers are suddenly into leather.

This is leather in moderation, however, mixed and matched with great abandon. While there are leather garments of every style and description, only a few brave designers tried to pull off that head-to-toe leather look.

Anne Klein designer Louis Dell'Olio made an attempt, pairing a short black leather skirt with a fitted, double-breasted black leather jacket trimmed with gold buttons and zippers.

Great jacket. Great skirt. But the two together looked a bit too much like an ad for Harley-Davidson which produces its own black leather jackets and sells them in a mail-order catalog, by the way.

More typically, designers chose to use leather in unlikely combinations, juxtaposing it with other fabrics that have a decidedly different look.

On the sophisticated side, Donna Karan put zip-front black leather vests under her sleek, stretch wool jackets and wrap skirts. This is perhaps the ultimate in power-dressing for the office: subtle and businesslike, but with the unmistakable domination factor of black leather.

"I've mixed the gutsy with the soft and the luxurious with the sporty," said Karan, who likes the streetwise edge that comes with the addition of leather.

Isaac Mizrahi, too, mixed leather with a variety of garments. He put sexy black leather halters over sheer black blouses, pairing them with the most businesslike of gray chalk-stripe suits.

In a more casual vein, he showed bright leathers: a red and pink fringed jacket, worn with a black moire skirt, and a sky blue and turquoise coat dress with a yellow collar. He also tossed a brown leather bomber jacket over a full, pink tweed wrap skirt that was hemmed at the ankle and slit to the thigh.

Mizrahi even used leather for evening, showing simple suede cocktail sheaths with beaded trim in American Indian patterns, and a bias-cut, palomino-colored leather gown that fit like a second skin.

While Mizrahi looked back for his leather influences, Carmelo Pomodoro looked far into the future.

"A 'new technology' in yarns, finishes and weaves is revolutionizing the way we dress," he said.

The wonders of science have produced all manner of fabrics that stretch and move with the body, a favorite Pomodoro theme, so it's no wonder that soft, supple leather is also a part of that.

For Pomodoro, leather is a suitable look for day as well as for evening. By day, his black leather motorcycle vests and jackets zip on over body-hugging black unitards or stretch-wool skirts. For evening, he showed the same jackets with sexy black dresses and skirts made of heavy guipure lace.

"It seems this season I've been interested in designing for two kinds of women," he said. "The thing is, they usually turn out to be the same woman. I call her 'Good Girl, Bad Girl.' My fall collection is dedicated to this dichotomy that exists in all women and makes them so attractive, so ... so naughty, yet nice!"

Like we said, good-bad, but not evil.

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