There I sat, all decked out in a single-breasted navy-blue suit, solid white shirt, striped tie, navy-blue socks and tight-fitting, wing-tip shoes. Suddenly I felt out of place, as male models paraded along the runway wearing the new look for spring '91 - double-breasted suits, striped shirts, floral and abstract ties, and patterned socks.
This was the first time I had attended the Mens Fashion Association (MFA) media preview, held again this year in Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel. As I looked around the hotel's Crystal Room, I suddenly realized that male fashion buyers and writers were also dressed for spring '91. I slumped down in my chair and anxiously waited for the house lights to dim.During the next few days, I became increasingly aware that my wardrobe needed a drastic overhaul.
Here are some of the new styles forecast for spring '91.
TAILORED SUITS: Double-breasted suits are again in the spotlight, although one- and two-button suits are still "acceptable." Silhouettes are soft and easy. The fashion-confident man of today believes that a loose fit looks "normal" and feels good.
The key word in this year's show was "microfibers," shorthand for micro-denier polyester fibers that are beginning to bring an unparalleled drapeability and suppleness to garments. Fabrics with microfiber can take on virtually any textural quality - from velvet to wool; silk to chamois; crisp cotton to suede.
Relatively new to the American market, this fiber has already found its way into men's clothing by Farah, Calvin Klein and Richard Mishaan. And it won't be long before practically every manufacturer will be using this amazing fiber.
As far as suit colors are concerned, dark gray and navy-blue shades are out. Instead, you'll see soft colors with descriptive names like cinnamon, taupe, tangerine, sage, pebble, mauve and dusty rose.
The 500 Fashion Group has come out with the Gladiator collection. Their suits and other clothing are designed for health-conscious, physically fit men who have large shoulders and trim waists. Other designers are following "suit."
Sport coats and blazers continue to be popular. But, again, they have a palette all their own - celery, aqua, cream, melon, etc.
When models walked down the runway wearing suits designed by Confezioni Riserva's suits, they were greeted with instantaneous applause. Other companies showing off the new spirit of relaxed silhouette and sophistication in their tailored suit collections were Pierre Cardin; Hart Schaffner & Marx; Henry Grethel Apparel; J.D. Hook; Mondo di Marco; and the Greif Companies, which represent Perry Ellis, Ralph Lauren, Gary Wasserman, Lanvin, and Kilgour, French and Stanbury.
PANTS: Pleats are in. Most of them are double- or triple-pleated. And a surprising number of the trousers are cuffed.
SHIRTS: Solid white dress shirts are out; striped and colored shirts are in. The stripes range from narrow to broad bands. Some of the fresh colors are called rose, pink, peach, cypress, taupe, khaki and sage.
Richard Tyler showed off shirts in solid, bold colors, while Van Heusen was more reserved, displaying dress shirts with stripes of "kinder, gentler colors."
For spring, longer-point collars are coming on strong, while the spread and button-down are still viable alternatives.
SWEATERS: The hottest sweater style for spring and summer is the lightweight cardigan. It's easy to put on and take off, and it doesn't mess your hair in the process. Whether buttoned or open, it will show off your tie to better advantage.
RAINWEAR: Hide your tan or navy-blue raincoats in the back of your closets. Rainwear for spring '91 is sophisticated and bright. You'll find them in yellow, orange, celery, gold, olive, bronze and other fun colors.
- Neckwear: The striped tie has seen its heyday; today, neckwear has become a playground for whimsical motifs, cheerful themes and upbeat ideas. There are florals, abstract designs and conversational ties spotlighting sports, musical instruments, medallions and other imagery.
- Suspenders continue to be stylish, but solid colors are out. Instead, suspenders are filled with florals and prints. Care should be taken to make sure that suspender patterns work well with the tie.
Clip-on suspenders are acceptable, but button-on suspenders are more stylish. This means you will have to sew buttons inside your trousers so you can attach these new suspenders.
- Belts are wider. They've gone from the 11/2-inch width to two inches, and sometimes more. Bill Blass, Pierre Cardin and Danbury are introducing a variety of handsome belts, many of which are made of top-grain leather.
- Hosiery is no longer solid but patterned. Falke still manufactures its standard-size collection but now has patterned socks where one size fits all. Gilbert Hosiery calls its highly patterned and colorful socks "sweaters for the feet."
- In shoes, comfort is becoming increasingly important. The designers and manufacturers of Hush Puppies are boasting of a new "bounce" sole, which can be found in both leisure and business footwear. Other companies putting their best foot forward at the fashion show were Allen-Edmonds, Cherokee and Johnston & Murphy.
During a talk about the new spring '91 fashions, Tom Julian, fashion director of MFA, said, "Manufacturers, designers and retailers are adopting a soft-stylish, saleable marketing attitude to help men understand their dressing options."
Designers are keenly aware of our country's current economic downturn. So many of them have designed items that could be used for more than one purpose. In other words, you don't have to do away with your current wardrobe; you just need to recharge it.
Again, I looked down at my attire. There was no getting around it. If I want to find myself on the cutting-edge of fashion this spring, I need to do more than recharging. I'll have to resort to a lot of "charging."