The new angle on shoulders Fashion: Cutouts and asymmetrical necklines are revealing the shape of things to come.


It's time to swing into holiday party mode. But before you RSVP for that black-tie bash, you may want to rethink the trusty little black dress with the scoop neckline that kept your dance card full for the past few years. The latest entrance-maker has a different slant.

Fashion designers have fallen back on their geometry. They've broken up the body line by skewing symmetry with clean cutouts and sharp angles. Just by redirecting a shoulder line, the look of the moment shifts to another dimension. For evening wear, that translates into long column dresses with an asymmetric neckline.

"The real diversion in evening gowns right now is what's going on at the neck -- from halters to the new one-shouldered styles," says buyer Betsy Wendell of Octavia in Cross Keys. "Everything is cut with a sort of discreet sensuality," she says.

As far as the regional fashion director for Nordstrom, Heather Femia, is concerned, holiday is pay-back time for all those painstaking hours at the gym. "The shoulders are one of the last to go, so why not show them off, along with well-toned arms," she says.

The one-shouldered look dates back to the ancient Romans and has been consistently reinvented through the centuries. The current incarnation recalls the fluid jersey Halston era of the '70s. "What separates the most recent revival from past decades is the use of innovative fabrics involving stretch, matte finishes like knits and rayon jersey, and all in sophisticated deep rich tones," says Femia.

Tune in to any TV awards ceremony or flip through any fashion magazine and you're guaranteed celebrities flashing a cold shoulder -- from glamorous Sharon Stone to the poised Princess Di. Those with the figure to carry it off can take the look a step further with strategically placed cutouts that reveal skin in unexpected places like the back and sides.

Although bare shoulders and skin-revealing cutouts are not for everyone, the asymmetrical line can be achieved with contrasting bands as diagonal insets. Such bi- and tri-color splicing creates a trompe l'oeil two-piece effect, adding interest to even the simplest silhouettes.

With all this plain geometry, what isn't wanted is fussy accessories. "Instead, opt for a simple earring. What better to dress a bare arm than a sculptural bold cuff," says Femia.

Minimalism has been Betty Cooke's signature since she began adapting geometric shapes to jewelry in the '40s. Since then the jewelry designer, whose namesake boutique is housed at The Store Ltd. in Cross Keys, hasn't strayed from her clean approach to her art.

The current prevalence of clean-cut clothes is the perfect canvas for Cooke's architectural use of 14K gold and sterling silver. Her abstract designs are often melded with precious stones and natural materials like wood. "My jewelry is alive because it provides movement," she says.

Hair should have motion as well. Avoid contrived up-dos, says Femia. Even a sleek, shiny ponytail will carry out the linear interpretation.

On the cover

One-shouldered matte jersey dress by Calvin Klein, $1,250, at Nordstrom.

Gold jewelry by Betty Cooke at The Store Limited.

Styling: Suzin Boddiford.

Hair and makeup: Wendy Latsha.

Model: Valeska/Nova Models.

Pub Date: 11/14/96

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad