Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Street fashions borrow from the bedroom

By Samantha Critchell
The Associated Press

Yes, you do see satin, lace and spaghetti straps on that woman in front of you in line at the grocery store.

No, that woman did not forget to get dressed this morning.

Silky satin, sexy lace and slinky straps - all trademark lingerie looks - are featured in some of this summer's hottest day and evening styles, and they'll continue to be important trends well into the fall.

"We brought in lingerie details because we wanted to infuse some femininity and sensuality into our very classic things," explains Deborah Lloyd, executive vice president of design and product development at Banana Republic. "I'm inspired by vintage clothing, and I find old nightwear and sleepwear and petticoats fascinating."

Banana Republic's collection includes a pink cotton overlay dress with a breezy nightgown shape, and a nightgown in pink linen with beige lace accents that has been spotted on the street as a dress.

Lingerie details also infuse a touch of art deco. Later this year, Banana Republic will offer satin camisoles with lace trim in wine and rose to wear under boucle suits and hip-skimming gowns in metallic satins.

"These clothes are so exciting because you can wear them for so many occasions. You can wear a camisole under a business suit, or with a pair of jeans is very sexy," Lloyd says. "Lingerie-ish dresses are more difficult at work; they're either for a dressy evening or a beach evening if the dress is casual and loose."

Relaxed codes

Dress codes at offices, restaurants and even schools have gotten more relaxed, which have allowed camisoles - a close but more fitted cousin of the tank top - to become a daily essential, observes Michael Weiss, president and CEO of Express.

"I think it's a trend that's been there for the past few years but it's never been bigger than it is right now," Weiss says. People aren't wearing it head-to-toe, though, he notes, instead pairing a lingerie top with edgier pants and high heels, or a slip skirt or dress with a more tailored top.

As the camisole becomes more common out of the bedroom, some adaptations have been made since its origin as an undergarment. The design, fabric, construction and finish of Express' version, for instance, is not as delicate - or sheer - as the camisole one would find in a store's intimate apparel department, and most daywear camisoles are "bra-friendly" with thicker straps and a modest neckline, or have built-in shelf bras.

" 'Trend' is a word that is becoming almost obsolete because just about everything in fashion is 'in,'" says designer Nicole Miller; styles simply take turns at the top.

Miller features lingerie-inspired styles in both her current collection and the fall line. One of the best-selling Nicole Miller dresses the past three seasons is a matte jersey sheath with colorful lace trim at the bust and at the bottom.

Lace infused with stretch can be very flattering and sexy because it hugs the body to create a seamless silhouette, but the texture helps mask figure flaws, Banana Republic's Lloyd says. Lace can even be worn to work if it's either lined or used for strategically placed insets.

Meanwhile, silk satin, which shined at the fall runway previews of Carolina Herrera and Ralph Lauren, makes an easy transition from lingerie to lingerie-inspired clothes because it's beautiful and feminine, and it's not transparent no matter what the color, Lloyd adds.

Avoiding confusion

To avoid any confusion about whether you're wearing lingerie-inspired clothes or actual lingerie, Cindy Weber Cleary, InStyle's fashion director, says the rest of your outfit should be polished, including a neat hairstyle such as an updo or chignon instead of "bedhead" and high heels.

If you're not ready for a full-on boudoir look, Weber Cleary says a petticoat skirt is one of the most flattering styles. "but it's more demure," she says.

And looking into the near future, Weber Cleary sees a lot of corsets. "For fall there are lots of designers doing structured corsets with boning and hooks and eyes," she says.

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