By  on June 6, 1994

NEW YORK -- Looks that move around the clock -- from day into night -- continue to grow in importance and are emerging as a major presence in holiday ready-to-wear collections being shown here this week.

While the shine remains bright on eveningwear business from designer to popular price, the traditional glitzy looks have been supplanted in large part by more subdued dresses and suits that fit today's tight budgets and the move to a more casual lifestyle in general.

Jon Levy, president of The Gillian Group, said evening and dinner are strong classifications right now in the firm's A.J. Bari eveningwear division and its Gillian Suits collection.

"Overall business is very difficult," Levy said. "But eveningwear and special occasion clothes are part of the entertainment business and they represent an escape from the everyday world. Women may hold off on buying something for daytime -- and they are right now -- but they will buy that special dress or outfit for evening or a special occasion."

Levy said day-to-dinner suits with fresh jacket shapes are performing very well because they represent "excellent value" to the consumer. Evening dresses are more understated with just a touch of beading to give the look some glamour, Levy said. He said that since both divisions are well established, he's only planning increases of 5 to 10 percent over last year, even though he thinks it will be a strong holiday season.

At the MMCF division of Mary McFadden, looks that work for day-into-evening are the major focus of the holiday collection, said Bob Pitofsky, president of McFadden's secondary collection.

"We find in general that special occasion dresses and suits have a very strong acceptance at retail," Pitofsky said. "While women may forgo buying a new daytime outfit, there is always a stronger need to buy for a specific purpose. If the dress or suit is designed so it can be worn from daytime to evening, it gives the consumer great flexibility and a multi-purpose reason to make a purchase."

Connected to that, Pitofsky said, is a "dramatic change from the overly glitzy looks of the past," into a more "subdued elegance."

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