Hemlines swooped from mid-calf to the ankle 18 months ago, shrank back to mid-thigh last fall and have been creeping down toward the knee ever since. As a result, the closets of many fashionable women contain a collection of skirts at varying lengths—a hodgepodge that fashion advisers have gamely described as “style options.” Now, designers who have risked exhausting the range of hemline possibilities—as well as their clients’ patience and pocketbooks— have begun to trumpet a major look for spring and fall: pants. Featured items include the pantsuit, last popular during the 1960s, and another throwback to that period, the wide-cut pant—nicknamed “elephant legs.”
Many fashion experts say that the new pantsuits will be more attractive than the bland, boxy 1960s variety. Ann Coombs, publisher of The Coombs Report, an international fashion forecasting newsletter in Vancouver, says that the return of the pantsuit will feature tailored sophistication and femininity. Said Coombs: “Light, fluid fabrics,
shaped, trimmed yokes and full pleats are creating an entirely new silhouette which will emphasize the waist.”
Shelley Wickabrod, a designer and partner in the Toronto-based retail firm Clotheslines Inc., says that she prefers to call her outfits “tailored trouser suits.” Added Wickabrod: “I loathe the term pantsuit—it implies those polyester safari suits out of the 1960s.” Many of her spring and summer suits, in linens and lightweight wools, feature luxurious wide-legged trousers and elegant short jackets that are nipped in at the waist. Wickabrod suggests that the suits be worn with bustiers—strapless, corset-like tops—for a city-slick look. And she reports that the new outfits, which cost between $550 and $800, have been selling well, especially to career women.
Indeed, according to Jacalyn Clabon, vice-president of sales and marketing for Vancouver-based Mr. Jax Fashions Inc., tailored trousers are becoming an accepted alternative to skirts—even in corporate boardrooms. If that trend continues, fashion-conscious women will have the option of donning pants for almost any occasion—and skirting the hemline issue entirely.
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