DESIGNERS have seen the future and it is wearing a jumpsuit. Time and again, when fashion designers get fed up with Retro - and most have had more than enough of the Seventies for now - they go the other way on a quest for the modern.

Modern means ease. It means one garment that will take you from dawn to dusk. It means no co-ordination to worry about, no shirts to come untucked, and, thanks to fabric innovation, no ironing. Every time fashion goes modern (which is always hot on the heels of a period of looking backwards), out comes the jumpsuit.

Geoffrey Beene, the modern designer from America's Deep South, has always refused to believe that any woman today would want to look like Scarlett O'Hara. Beene, who includes a jumpsuit in every collection, believes it is 'the modern basic which calls into question the validity of the skirt. It works, it travels, it goes into ballrooms with big pieces of sculptural jewellery.' Unfortunately it doesn't cross oceans - Beene's designs are not available here.

But the thoughts of the designer who has been the jumpsuit's most long-standing champion sum up those of other designers whose options are available here, including Alberta Ferretti, John Richmond and Donna Karan. The jumpsuit is the most uncluttered option for summer dressing. By day, it is one lightweight, breezy piece that keeps legs away from the harmful rays of the sun; by night it can look as elegant as a black satin sheath dress except that, because it has legs, it allows movement.

So why then, if the jumpsuit makes sound sense and looks as attractive as these pictures show, are we modernists not all wearing jumpsuits by day and by night? Three simple reasons. One, they are practical only until nature calls. Two, it is virtually impossible to keep underwear invisible beneath them, and not everyone subscribes to the trend of underwear on show. Three - and this is the key - they show every curve and every extra bump beneath.

So no change. Designers have seen the future and once again - in a country where nearly 60 per cent of the female population is over a size 14 and where women are, at last, being offered positive images of a variety of bodily forms through advertisements such as the current one for Nike ('It's not the shape you are, it's the shape you're in that matters') - the required size for the future of fashion will remain pencil-thin. Plus ca change.

(Photographs omitted)