The lowdown on hemlines


PARIS - Pulled by some mysterious, irresistible force, hemlines have been falling.

Is it gravity? Or fate? Why now, you say, when women are just beginning to feel comfortable in the shorter lengths?

Indeed, store buyers and fashion editors in Europe for the spring showings were divided over the new silhouette. Even the designers seemed confused. This was the season of the great compromise hemline.

Fashion is a little bit like trading futures: the clothes shown in Paris and Milan, Italy, in the past month are for spring delivery. And designers tended to hedge their bets.

Several designers sent the models down the runway in long dresses, only to have them whip these ankle-grazers off, revealing either a lacy short skirt (Valentino) or a bodysuit (Karl Lagerfeld) underneath.

This leaves women with the problem of what to do with the extra skirt. Check it at the door?

Christian Lacroix showed "skirt pants," wide-legged, high-waisted trousers that were slit on the side seams and had man-style tabs to adjust the waist.

Claude Montana advocated a similar approach, with long apronlike skirts fastened over shorts. He also tried a sheer, lacy overskirt, slit up the side, with another, shorter skirt underneath.

Karl Lagerfeld had the strongest hand with longer lengths, simply dropping the hems of the Chanel wool suit a few inches below the knee.

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