While designers have tweaked washes,fabrics and details for a year,the low rise has remained a com- mon element across most new jeans tyles.

The trend,which tarted on the West Coast two years ago with plunging styles that forced some wearers to find new underwear or go without,has now become common curren- cy in the jeans business.Jeans vendors are producing low- rise tyles targeted at everyone from East Coast teens to Midwestern matrons —though the 8 1/2-to 9-inch rises tar- geted at the latter leave lots more to the imagination than the 5-inch rises aimed at the young and trend-conscious et.

Designers believe the trend has lasted because placing the jeans lower on the hips and below the stomach has a slimming effect.With consumers rising to the bait,merchan- disers have focused their efforts this year on toning down the over-the-top sandblasted and whiskered washes of a year ago to make jeans look a little more cleaned up.

They ’ve also refined the cut,developing contoured waist- bands that it higher at the rear than in the front — to avoid the dreaded plumber look seen in early tyles.In the trend ’s latest incarnation,designers are creating trompe l ’oeil effects, using either wide belts or additional pieces of non-denim fab- ric,like athletic knits,above the fly.That results in jeans that appear to sit very low on the hips but cover more of the body.

But typically,after fashion ’s pendulum wings to one extreme,it eventually turns in the other direction.Some design- ers have started to ask whether it ’s time to bring back aggres- sively high rises that cover the navel,evocative of the designer jeans of the late Seventies and early Eighties.Still,most sources said they believe consumers aren ’t yet ready for high rises.

However,while the low-rise trend still has ome legs in it, merchandisers are starting to look again at the legs of jeans.Bootcuts and flares have become almost tan- dard in recent years,and some lines are tarting to include more traight-leg styles,just to offer a change in ilhouette.But so far,executives aid, few consumers are biting.

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