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Fashion's latest cottony crop brings new definition to 'fits to a T' Shrink Wrap


We have entered the age of the incredible shrinking T-shirt. The kids started it, designers picked up on it and there is no turning back. The young, ever careful to stay a step ahead of the geezers, decided on change once they saw the mall sprinkled with oversize T's worn by World's Greatest Grandmas.

In fashion self-defense, young women gave up their extra-large boyfriend shirts and borrowed little brother's. Trendies are now squeezing themselves into baby T's, and mature figures are gasping at the demise of baggy one-size-hides-all styles. Remember Goldie Hawn's cropped tops and Twiggy's emaciated poor boy knits? It all comes 'round.

There's no denying that junior figures look cute and fit in tot-sized styles, which some of them buy in the kiddie department to ensure the snug gest fit. They also lean to baby-like undershirts, tanks and boiled-down polo shirts. Teens wear their T's with short shorts, classic jeans, miniskirts and floaty skirts. But then, teens can wear anything, including the popular Mickey and Superman shirts from the children's department.

The adult department has to be more circumspect in how tiny and tight the T's go. Not to worry, though, a happy medium between small tops and big tents is possible.

Fashion-minded women may not buy into the shrunken look altogether but will be thinking smaller. Instead of automatically reaching for a large, they may want to start in the small range and work up to a fitted but comfortable level.

Mainstream labels have already reduced the volume in casual tops, and seasonal shoppers will be noticing a smaller fit overall. Even at the designer level where trends are exaggerated, there is acknowledgment that women who can pay the price shouldn't always buy into a trend. On the runways, designers showed the shrunken look but were smart enough to work it into collections that offered coordinating jackets or easy shirts to take the edge off.

There are ways to wear small without feeling constrained. Here are some things to remember:

* Body tone, not size, separates the women from the girls. A taut, athletic build can get away with shrink looks. Bodies with any hint of flab need coverage. Wave at the three-way mirror; if any upper body parts jiggle back, forget it.

* T-shirts started out as underwear. Wear them that way -- snug and clean under a jacket, shirt or jumper.

* A tight top needs a taut bottom for balance. Baggy shorts will only accentuate the problem.

* A relaxed top cropped at the waist gets the shrink idea across without binding.

* Think of shrink as a lean cotton cardigan which slims the arms as it covers.

* Try a body suit with some elastic control under a light jacket. The bareness and small scale holds the look in check.

* Designers show a strip of bare midriff as the ultimate summer accessory. Work the same idea by substituting a polished belt for polished skin.

* Men's T-shirts are shrinking, too. Be a friend and be honest about that muscle shirt.

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