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Stoles Steal the Show Fashion: Designers reintroduce the lost art of being a decadent diva with stoles.


How does one become a diva? Practice, darlings, lots of practice. Although divas are made by the gods who give them the voices of angels, the rest of the persona is studied and acquired.

The one thing divas have in common is their exceptional ability to sweep -- as in sweep into a room, sweep down the staircase, sweep into a limo. They know how to float a stole across the stage.

With the festive party season in full swing and many opportunities for sweeping, so many women are paralyzed by stage fright, afraid to hit the high glamour notes. Why? Although the diva word has re-entered the fashion and pop music vocabulary, the meaning of divadom has been lost to generations that grew up wearing sneakers and jeans and attending rock concerts.

Those women need mentors, someone to encourage them to work a party dress a la "La Traviata." Someone to assure them showmanship is good for the spirit.

The one accessory that adds instant panache to any party dress is a stole -- a length of fluff, shimmer or luxury to drape around the shoulders. Young designers, in particular, revived them in this year's holiday collections and they swept the runways in various degrees of drama.

Byron Lars did stoles as feather boas topping barely there lace evening slips. Nicole Miller cut them long to trail a matching pink satin ball gown. Todd Oldham made them up with a vintage twist, shaping fuchsia and purple mink shrugs a la Mamie Eisenhower.

It's not necessary, however, to seek out designer stoles in designer salons. Specialty shops and department stores carry a variety of lengths and fabrications. Aside from the fact that stoles eliminate fit and size problems, there is much more to recommend them:

Attitude: It is almost impossible to carry off a stole without adopting a taller stance and better posture. Try it. Drape it across the back and over the crook of the arm. The shoulders press back and the chin tilts up. Posture is everything.

Allure: Managing a stole necessitates lots of flirtatious feminine tugs, flips and shrugs. Women friends may find those irritating; men find them irresistible.

Comfort: Stoles may be worked for stylish effect; however, they also work to ward off ballroom drafts and a cold sprint to the carriage.

Convenience: Off to a gala weekend? A stole travels compactly in a carry-on bag without worry about rumpling.

Longevity: A stole knows no fashion season. A vintage spill of satin, velvet or chiffon will look just as fabulous decades from now on your daughter's prom night.

What's next? Women would do well to master the stole. At the fashion collections for next spring, designers were in love with the idea of dresses with trains. Trains are even trickier to handle and carry the added risk of bodily injury and tripping.

Pub Date: 12/26/96

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