The sleeveless shift is hot


A subtropical shroud covered New York City like a dirty old coat, turning fashionable people into human puddles. These are the horse latitudes of fashion, when it's OK not to think about clothes, if only for 15 minutes.

Several of the chic small stores on Madison Avenue have closed for vacation. Others, particularly luxury retailers with a clientele that summers by the sea, are closed on Saturdays till Labor Day.

In the department stores, there is a general atmosphere of not much business being done, although they are excellent places to sample air-conditioning. The coolest places to see clothes are action movies. In the future, as Arnold Schwarzenegger has demonstrated, robots will have a great sense of style.

The heat does gives rise to a certain fashionable languor, especially among the legions going to work. Among working women, one summer trend has been readily apparent: the return of the sleeveless shift dress. More and more women go to work in such easy styles: cool, crisp and unfettered.

By contrast, the men slogging toward the subway in their stifling suits seem a trifle absurd. If design is still vaguely related to function, their uniform is the inferior one.

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