Back to the future in modern mod

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

NEW YORK -- Those 1960s British hipsters were on to something: Both then and now, bold, graphic and swinging styles put the "mod" in modern fashion.

This season, many designers and retailers are forgoing fall's traditional muted colors and soft styles in favor of go-go boots, microminis, A-line jumpers, opaque tights and patent leather. Splashes of bright primary colors sharply contrast with dominant black and white.

The look might catch on with customers because it's easily adapted to fit different ages, shapes and budgets.

Designer Cynthia Rowley said, "You can do it in increments and you can ask yourself how 'mod' do you want to get?

"The first step is to wear something short; the second step is to wear black tights -- and if you feel comfortable in colored tights then go for it," Rowley said.

If you want to go for broke, pair thigh-high boots with your micromini. Put on some white nail polish, a pale, high-shine lip gloss and heavy black eyeliner -- or, if you dare, blue eyeliner -- and the look is nearly complete.

The topper? Bangs, according to New York-based hairstylist Oscar Blandi, who has a salon in Manhattan's Plaza Hotel.

"The mod trend is very strong now but it will come and go," said Blandi. "The traditional mod haircut has very hard lines, but bangs make a big mod statement but you can easily wear it softer with layers."

Not a costume

From her fall collection, a short pink dress with a sheer V cutout is Rowley's favorite because the color instantly brings the look into 2003. "If you dress exactly the same as the '60s, it looks like a costume. You have to have some feeling of newness," she says.

"This season's modern mod is changed by the technology of the fabrics," said Caren Bell, spokeswoman for Tommy Hilfiger, which is offering one of the most comprehensive mod collections.

Fabrics treated with Neoprene and Teflon not only add to the garments' futuristic look, they create a durability and texture that didn't exist 40 years ago, she explains.

Another big fabric story is the use of traditional menswear patterns, such as houndstooth and tweed, in womenswear. Because the patterns are enlarged, and put on very feminine shapes, the resulting garments are sort of "unexpected," Bell described.

An office-appropriate version of mod is a jumper with a black or white turtleneck and black boots, but bright tights and pumps jazz up the same dress for night.

To create a longer, slimming line, match the color of the skirt and tights -- whether it's conservative black or a hot color like red or yellow, says Wolford spokeswoman Kym Harris.

Also, she notes, choose either a matching or neutral shoe "so you don't have the whole rainbow thing going on." For orange and yellow hosiery, Harris suggests brown shoes, while bright blue and red tights look best with black.

"If you are going to do the itty-bitty mod miniskirts, you have to embrace the patent leather boots," said Glamour magazine's editor in chief, Cindi Leive.

Leive already is wearing her new Moschino jacket with black fabric buttons that is an obvious nod to Andre Courreges, one of the mod look's founding fathers, but Leive warns that too much mod "can have a tendency to look ridiculous."

She says the safest way to work the trend into a wardrobe is through boots, Lucite rings, oversized sunglasses with plastic frames and big hoop earrings.

"The number of shoppers looking for jumpers is fairly limited -- it's for your 'Sex and the City' girl, but for the actual human who has a job, mod will be an influential look but you'll see it more in accessories and touches," Leive predicts.

Mod coats with oversized buttons and shorter silhouettes -- especially those by Marc Jacobs, Celine and Tommy Hilfiger -- also are easy to wear because they look great over jeans on the weekend and cast a less aggressive look, she says.

And, says Leive, this whole mod movement should leave feet dancing in their go-go boots, which usually have rounder toes and flatter heels than the pointy-toe, spiky-heel cousins that women have subjected themselves to the past few years.

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