RETURN TO ROMANCE
Byline: Rebecca Kleinman
ATLANTA — Call it romantic, call it “Titanic.” Whatever you call it, it’s a fashion trend that may be as big as the movie behind it.
At least, that’s what designers and retailers are hoping.
Some joke that the movie itself is just the tip of the iceberg — there are other inspirations behind fall and holiday’s return to romance, such as a retro interest in Eighties opulence as a backlash to Nineties minimalism; a connection between the new millennium and the turn of the century, or a simple longing to be feminine. All of these outside influences were at work by the time “Titanic” was released.
“This movie woke something up in women,” said Jean Dudley-Smith of Jean’s Fantasia, a Nashville, Tenn., manufacturer. And Judy Rabineau, designer of the Los Angeles-based Mica, a sportswear and dress firm, agrees. “Women want to be women again. Suits and sportswear aren’t selling as well anymore.” Rabineau expects Mica’s ultrafeminine lavender beaded dress with sequins on georgette to be a hot style for holiday.
Predictions on how long the trend will last range from until spring 1999 to 10 years. Deborah Kirkland, co-owner, Johnny Was, a Los Angeles manufacturer, thinks the trend is “too special, too emotional” to end next season. Her line will include beaded dresses, embroidered georgette blouses and sweaters with fur trim.
At the heart of this trend are dresses. “Women don’t need any more little black dresses. They already have a closet full,” said Kathleen McFeeters, ceo and president of Donna Morgan, a New York-based dress firm. Donna Morgan’s holiday line will feature prints and include detachable feather and fur trims.
But it isn’t all in the embellishment. Empire designs or dresses with bust cups are a big part of the look. “We test-marketed ‘Titanic’-inspired bust cups in the bridesmaid line,” said Chris Henry, president of Panoply Designs, an Atlanta special occasion dress manufacturer. “And we incorporated it in all dresses and even in separates.”
Of course, the look has influenced areas other than dresses. Sonya Ratay, a New York manufacturer, offers a lace black duster with matching black rayon camisole and pants, for example. And the line will also include opulent lace shawls.
“Before the movie, women were afraid to wear too much, or be too showy. They’d think, ‘Oh, I can’t wear that hat, it’s too big,’ or ‘those dangling earrings are too much.’ That’s not the case anymore,”‘ said Jean’s Fantasia Dudley-Smith.
The growing consensus is that Southern women, who have always gravitated toward romantic looks, will love it. “Pretty sells in the South, and that’s what this look is,” said Donna Morgan’s McFeeters.
Color, which is also important in the South, reflects the richness of the look. Holiday shades include blackberry, slate blue, lavender, emerald and gold and lean more toward royal than bright. By spring, pastels will be prominent. A sample of “Titanic”-inspired looks appears on the following pages.