Originally created 01/18/98

'97 a year rich in fashion



Fashion, in any year, has its own vocabulary. Anything out of style is simply termed "over." (Backpacks are over, but the '70s linger.)

Anything great is "beyond."

Some of the looks that landed in '97 are already over (power suits, micro-miniskirts). And, of course, '98 promises to present a wealth of styles that will be beyond (athletically inspired sportswear, more sheer slipdresses). Maybe the low point of the new year has already been reached -- the Spice Girls on the January cover of Vogue. Aren't they over?

Here's a look at the last year in fashion:

Suffering for style came back with stiletto heels. Sensible woman overheard observing a cute young thing wearing stilettos and bare legs on a chilly day: "Do I have pain centers in my body that she doesn't?"

Liberation, the '90s version, took the form of innerwear worn out in the noonday sun. Women let their bra straps peek out of tank tops and slipdresses all summer, as if to say to anyone who dared disapprove, "It's my bra strap. So shoot me."

Remember my name: Designers continued to put their names on everything from underwear (Gucci, Prada) to kids' clothes (Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger). Even the Fendi double F looked right on handbags again.

Who'd a thunk it? The most ubiquitous look of the year originated in a tiny London boutique run by a team of aging ex-hippies who buy no advertising, stage no fashion shows, keep their store's door locked and refuse to put price tags on garments. Models and young British socialites discovered Voyage (pronounced voyAHZZ). Then Barney's and Bergdorf Goodman imported the feminine, colorful cut-velvet slipdresses and velvet-trimmed cardigans. Clever Los Angeles manufacturers like IS were quick to pick up on the ethereal Voyage style and create their own very good, and much less expensive, versions. By year's end, even Club Monaco had Voyage facsimiles on its racks.

What ever happened to the power suit? Much touted, it was the trend that didn't happen. Too '80s, too obvious, too too.

The slipdress won't die, or fade away.

Any time, any place, any season, any color, any price. Leather.

Bad idea redux: Return of the miniskirt. The best skirts of spring all hover around the knee.

Prada pushed a designer warmup suit, but, fortunately, the kind of sportswear that continued to gain acceptance among nonathletes looked best mixed with regular clothes.

Be strong, be weak, just be. Now that perfumes have used every euphemism for sexual arousal in the thesaurus, they're exploring a range of emotions. Clinique called its new, citrusy scent Happy, after research revealed that 95 percent of American women value happiness over wealth or beauty. Calvin Klein just launched Contradiction. Another happy fragrance innovation is the introduction of lighter versions of popular scents, including Allure Voile and Aqua de Gio from Giorgio Armani.

Go figure: aren Elson left Manchester, England, at 16 to try modeling. Quicker than you could say, "Catch that weird red bob," she was a designers' favorite, treading runways everywhere and turning up in ads for Chanel, Versace and Baume & Mercier watches. Pretty close up, but at a distance she often looks deranged, an impression heightened by shaved eyebrows.

Only months after her dazzling discards fetched record prices at a charity auction, Princess Diana died in a tragic accident. The question of whether she would have become both a style icon and a woman of substance was left unanswered.

Gianni Versace, murdered in Miami in July, proved that designers are as well known as the celebrities they dress.