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Archive for Sunday, September 7, 2003

Fashion folks show their tough side

September 7, 2003

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— Even the woman who fully embraces all of fall's ladylike looks -- the satin, the fur stoles and even the mod miniskirts -- has the occasional day when she wants to break out and be the "bad girl."

That's when she pulls out the black leather bag with grommets, the tight black jeans with hardware details and the metal-mesh lingerie.

"The reality is we all wear a lot of black and this gives us a way to jazz it up and make it look new," says Mary Jimenez, vice president of merchandising for the shopping Web site, eLuxury.

She explains, though, that the season's biker chic look is more about appearing strong and confident than it is about being tough. "This is hard-core romance ... not S&M."

"I don't think it has to be a choice to be pretty and feminine or to be hard-edge. You can do both," Jimenez adds.

Victoria's Secret recently launched its Rock Angel Collection by having models arrive at the retailer's flagship Manhattan store on Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

The line includes shrunken corset vests, mesh tank tops over leather bras, miniature miniskirts with multiple zippers, rose-tattoo embroidery on undergarments, and leather arm and neck bands. Most of the pieces are black, white or metallic, but there is the occasional touch of hot pink just to remind us that these biker-inspired clothes are definitely meant to be worn by very feminine women.

"I like a little lace with leather," model Bridget Hall, one of the Victoria's Secret bikers, says. "It's rebel glamour."

She acknowledges, though, that the look doesn't go everywhere: "Maybe I'd wear it to a rock concert. I'd cover up a little more for the street, but the bracelets and belts can be worn with anything."

Since Victoria's Secret is primarily a lingerie retailer, Rock Angel isn't a "street collection," but the pieces can be layered to create a more covered-up but still cutting-edge outfit, says company spokeswoman Monica Mitro.

"You certainly make a statement," she adds.

For the more conservative, handbags with chain details or boots and shoes with dominant zipper touches can be paired with black pants and a white blouse and look perfectly appropriate at the office, says eLuxury's Jimenez.

The metal hardware, the denim and the whole motorcycle motif is classic Americana -- think "Easy Rider" -- so the pieces won't be obsolete next season, she adds. Christian Dior's "hard-core" purse, for example, is already planned for spring in pale blue and pink.

Jimenez also is a fan of the black pants that are otherwise classic, save an occasional visible zipper or buckle. "Everybody needs a new pair of black pants and a pair of black ankle boots with a little hardware on it. You know you can never have too many pairs of black pants or black shoes."

Black jeans have a harder-edge look than black pants in other fabrics because the wash and texture of denim really changes the impact of the color," explains Ersin Akarlilar, president of Mavi Jeans. Denim also drapes less and hugs more to highlight curves.

Torn pocket edges or frayed hems, which can only be done with a strong fabric, give a rougher, tougher appearance, Akarlilar adds.

Dark denim is a natural partner for vintage or vintage-inspired T-shirts that also lends itself to the overall biker image -- a look that seems equally appropriate on a slightly weathered woman in her 50s as on a teenager.

"You can wear this at any age," says Jimenez.

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