Designers gambled, but, by and large, women didn't play PASSING FASHION


It was the year of dressing dangerously.

Designers, who had failed to move women into buying yet another safe suit, pulled out all the trunks and tried to convince them to take some risks. We got rocker grunge and overblown historical costumery. Women didn't play, and they didn't buy and the year-end clearance racks are strung with dead dandies and wilted Victorians.

It was the year that the '90s finally took hold of the fashion decade, uprooting the last vestiges of '80s power dressing and conspicuous chic. Fashion chilled out.

* ROMANCING THE STORES: Women were encouraged to dress up to their romantic fantasies. There were the bare and barefoot looks of sarongs and sprigged flower-child draperies for summer. The winter way was looking like a pauper, a poet, a pirate, a pawn or a king. Fun while it lasted.

* RELIGIOUS REVIVAL: Monastic and ecclesiastic dressing had some converts. We saw a procession of dark, spare tunics and coats accessorized with crosses and talismans. The clothes were too other-worldly to take to the streets with any conviction, but crosses made their mark and were worn by hipsters and socialites alike.

* THE NEW BABY BOOM: Baby models had their way. The big girls -- Naomi, Cindy, Linda, Claudia -- outgrew their appeal. The little waifs -- Kate, Beri, Lucie, Amber -- stared wide-eyed and vacant out of the fashion pages. Critics cried anorexia and pedophilia, but the pre-pubescent look dominated.

* CHANNEL SHOPPING: QVC and the Home Shopping Network moved from kitsch to chic as designers started lining up for the right to hawk their labels to the masses to the tune of millions per hour.TV shopping entered the mainstream.

* SNEAK ATTACK: Sneakers were transformed from pumped up basketball court models to fashion status. We saw high-heeled, high-top versions with a Chanel logo and old striped Adidas suedies.

* CROSS DRESSING: Singer Ru Paul created a sensation in his spike heels, spike false eyelashes and big hair. Fashionable women dressed like the Three Musketeers in boots, vest, frock coat and cape.

* LESBIAN CHIC: Lipstick lesbians came out of the closet and headed right for the cosmetic counters. At the designer collections, k.d. lang, who made butch fashionable, was front row center.

* ETHNIC COIFFURE: Looped, criss-crossed and bowed Heidi braids right out of Alpine villages were sported by downtown girls with attitude while uptown debs took to dreadlocks and Rasta snags.

* BALDING AMERICA: Shaved and shiny, or showing a bit of stubble, baldness was the newest way with hair. Joining the insanity was weight-loss yenta Susan Powter, Shaquille O'Neal and Eve, the scary, model sensation of New York.

* NEEDLES AND PINS: Tribal tattoos and pierced body parts were the must-have accessories among the avant gross. Models Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington pierced their navels to show that they're still in the game.

* CLOD CHIC: The big change in footwear was heavy-duty. The black combat boot look of Doc Martens moved out to suburban malls and coffee bars. Great-outdoors and woodland designs by Timberland moved to the big city and became the shoe of choice among inner-city youth. And Birkenstock sandals, the official shoes of the Woodstock generation, were shown with patio wear. Teva, a synthetic water-safety sandal, became the hot summer brand.

* FIRST HAIR: Hillary was bobbed, shagged, cut and banged, but the biggest White House hair news was the clip trendy hairdresser Christophe gave Bill Clinton aboard the presidential jet, which tied up Los Angeles International Airport.

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