FASHION / Cold comfort

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The Independent Culture
The overcoat is longer and slimmer this year. Shoulders are smaller, bodices tighter and, along with the usual wool and cashmere, velvet is the season's favourite new fabric. Underneath, a dress or a long fluid skirt make a change from leggings, revealing a flash of bare leg, then great big boots.


SKIRTS are returning to pelmet level this season. We're so used to them going up and down, this comes as no surprise. What is different, however, is the appearance of the legs beneath them. Usually short skirts reveal legs which are long, lean and tanned in the summer, and clad in opaque black tights in the winter. This year - extraordinarily - fashionable legs are blotchy and purply-white. Most models eschew tanning now, and, as a result, some of them have the kind of legs last seen at a school hockey match. Skinny British white model legs belong, notably, to Stella Tennant and Kate Moss.

FASHION movies tend to be slow, self- congratulatory affairs: Wim Wenders' for Yohji Yamamoto was only for the dedicated and Martin Scorsese's for Giorgio Armani flopped because the designer . . . well, let's just say he didn't talk in sound bites. The American designer Geoffrey Beene did rather better with a film he commissioned from the director Tom Kalin (who directed last year's Swoon) to celebrate Beene's 30 years in the business. A good start was that the designer's ego didn't decree that he made lengthy appearances on celluloid. In fact, he wasn't seen at all in a weird, moody, inexplicable but utterly watchable drama of love, intrigue and deception, all played out in his immaculate clothes.

AFTER the immortalisation of Christy Turlington - her face is the inspiration for men, women and children mannequins for the displays in the Costume Institute of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art - comes Lucie de La Falaise, the model-as-waif mannequin, and Beverly Peele as the black Amazonian mannequin. Peele's image is now in all Lord & Taylor stores across the US and Japan.

OASIS have made a smart move. After many pleas from their customers, they are introducing size 16s to their suits range and co-ordinating separates. The collection has now been styled and graded to fit tall and small. Also on the subject of sizing, Dawn French and Helen Teague's company '1647' - a range for women of size 16 and upwards - has launched its Christmas collection which includes black silk crepe suits, suede waistcoats and bitter chocolate velvet dresses. There is also a nightwear range in black or ivory silks and satin polyester (1647 is at 69 Gloucester Avenue, London NW1). For women who want straightforward clothes in larger sizes, Astuces is the latest French label to appear in London. The first UK branch is at 31 King's Road and offers simple, contemporary shapes influenced by workwear - artisan and Nehru jackets, peasant skirts and a more fluid range of jersey separates. Prices from pounds 15 to pounds 120.

RED OR DEAD have opened their first clothing-only shop in Covent Garden. The womenswear includes classic long velvet evening dresses given a twist with skeleton-patterned devore. Prices for the dresses start at around pounds 240. Red or Dead menswear is sold alongside the new Dr Martens clothing range. The shoe shop round the corner on Neal Street remains open, and unemployed actors will work as ushers, encouraging shoppers to visit both establishments. Red or Dead, Units 1 and 23, Thomas Neal's Centre, Earlham Street, London WC2.

THE BATTLE between the jeans companies continues as Levi's biggest rival,

Lee Jeans, launched their new million- dollar advertising campaign, 'River Rescue', last week. This 60-second mini- movie (filled with what the company describes as 'action, high drama and emotion') stars Natasha Wagner (daughter of Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner) and is directed by Michael Mann, who directed Last of the Mohicans. It opens at cinemas this month and will be on television next spring.

(Photographs omitted)