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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois


Must-Have Looks for Spring

Happy Woman has made its semiannual pilgrimage to fashion centers where the beaches are warm, the mojitos are cold, and the help is studly, to bring you the hottest looks for spring!

Just say non. From Paris to Milan, the message is clear: au revoir, feminists; bon giorno, looks-obsessed lassies. As top Italian designer Sotto Voce put it:

"This season's designs are part of a male conspiracy to keep women out of the workforce or at least in low-paying jobs. We searched the world over for fabrics
that fall apart with dry cleaning, so naturally you can't launder them in a washing machine, either. They require the same kind of care and attention as your eyebrows or the man in your life.

"You have to take them to a stream and pound them with rocks. Or, if you don't have a stream, you can use your hot tub. And then, of course, you have to iron.

Ruffles and bows. Pleats and gathers. Delicate embroidered necklines and lacy French cuffs. And my personal favorite, pockets on cargo pants. Basically, we're encouraging women to buy our very expensive clothes and then stay at home and spend all their time taking care of them."

Bottoms to tops. Look for chilly calves and a rush on belly-button plastic surgery as hip-hugging, cropped pants hit the racks. To catch the latest trend for blouses, wear them buttoned down enough so everyone can see your bra. And we're not talking sports bra, either. Try some Victoria's Secret numbers, in classic see-through black, sherbet hues, or delicate spring pastels. Rework that layered look by wearing your bra outside your blouse or tap pants peeping not so discreetly from beneath silk shorts.

Un-dresses. Do you ever have those dreams where you're walking down the street in your underwear or nightgown? As you may have surmised from the skinny on layers, that's the feeling designers are striving for this season. Look for baby-doll pajamas morphed into nippy little frocks with empire waists and skirts tiered like wedding cakes. "This season," says Elle, "don't hesitate to wear a satin and lace slip as a dress."

Mesolithic mama. With more than a third of Canadian women overweight, and a whopping 62 percent in the States, designers have finally bowed to demands that they put out a few collections suitable for women other than anorexic cookies. "We found our inspiration for this spring's larger-ladies' fashions in the Middle Stone Age," says fashion diva Margot Brash.

"The way we get a lot of our ideas, besides partying and drinking way too much, is to go thumbing through our art history books from college. We looked at the Hittites, the Babylonians, and the ancient Sumerians. Then we stumbled on the cave paintings at Lascaux and these absolutely lush fertility figures. They're called fetishes, or Aphrodite's. Fat was beautiful back then, baby. And since none of them had clothes, we could design whatever we wanted."

Look for swoopy fabrics that you drape around yourself and knot in place, the way you used to dress your dolls when you were small and couldn't manage

Handbags. Here's your chance to steal a look, save money, recycle, de-clutter-and keep the Teletubbies at bay for hours. Rummage your closets for ditched handbags that look like pouffy sacks. Then let your kids glue stuff on them. Empty drawers of seashells, beads, and buttons. Snip the fringe off the dress that busted your budget last season. How about acorns, pom-poms, or assorted shapes of dry pasta? Or, if you live in a tough neighborhood, bottle caps, wing nuts, and barbed wire?

Walking tall. Designers have trekked out the usual sky-scraping footwear suitable for any activity that does not involve locomotion. Pairing track suits with heels is a definite trend. Metallic shoes are very, very in. For that come-hither look, try silvery stilettos sure to set off airport metal detectors and the hottest security guys around. To make sure you're the center of attention even in libraries, schools, and hospitals, try clompy wedges that look like the shoes worn by actors in Equus who are playing horses. Having them nailed to your feet is optional.

Trenches. What happy woman would be prepped for that sudden spring downpour without her trusty raincoat? The trendiest trenches come halfway up your thigh and would not protect you from the gentlest shower, but that's not the point, is it? Be sure to wear nothing underneath, or for a more modest look, simply no top.

To sum things up, for the leanest of ladies, this season's fashions are the usual bewildering array of mix and match, or mis and match, pretty much anything you want. For the rest of us, good luck finding anything that's going to look nice.

© 2004 Elaine Langlois