THE BARE FACTS Changing tides of fashion look for a new part of the anatomy to uncover


Ever wonder why hemlines rise and fall, necklines shift from high to low, backs are exposed one season then covered the next? It is quite amazing when you think about it, that every designer seems to shift design lines at precisely the same time. It's almost as though they had a meeting and talked it over.

If you ask a designer how they all manage to make a change simultaneously, he or she will just say the time seemed right.

There really is no mystery involved. In the industry, it's called the shifting erogenous zone of fashion. Here's how it works:

Each season designers unveil a part of the anatomy that we haven't seen in a long time. Some seasons it's cleavage. Other PTC times it's knees, backs or navels. The purpose is to shake consumers up and make them pay attention. Everybody knows what navels look like -- goodness knows we see enough of them at the beach every year -- but uncover one at the office and everyone thinks you're starting a new career.

At the same time designers uncover something, they cover up the zone that's been exposed for a while. The idea is that by keeping something under wraps for a time, it becomes more mysterious and therefore more exciting when it is suddenly uncovered.

Fashion has made these swings, from covered to uncovered, since Eve found her first fig leaf. One of the masters at the game is Calvin Klein. He's been toying with buttoned and unbuttoned jeans, tight jeans, baggy jeans. He's raised and dropped hemlines, covered and uncovered breasts for as long as he's been in business.

So, here we sit in the spring of '92 in our terribly fashionable short skirts -- the ones it took two years to get used to wearing and another year to finish hemming to the right length. And guess what, the zone has changed and knees are no longer fashionable.

Hemlines are going down, ladies. Yep. Down, down, down, to the shoe. Well, don't panic just yet. It's going to take a while for the dumpy derby to make it to California, say next holiday season or next spring for certain. Although the teen-age set is bound to latch onto this new development quickly and beat the thrifty shoppers to the punch.

OK, legs go under cover. So, what do we have to work with? Shoulders. Un huh. "It's the most sensual part of a woman's body," says designer Donna Karan.

Her new fall '92 line includes long dresses with high turtlenecks and long sleeves with big holes cut out over the shoulders.

"You never gain weight there," says Ms. Karan.

Well, she has a point. Things could be worse. The new focus zone could have been navels. They have been covered up for quite some time now.

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