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Susan Orlean

Springtime Fashion

Nothing says springtime quite so much as a romp around Paris in your underpants. Pitchers and catchers may have reported to spring training; tax day might have come and gone; but nothing celebrates the vernal equinox like whipping off your fleece-lined Uggs and wool-blend trousers, getting a Brazilian bikini wax, and strolling over to the Eiffel Tower just as you are. Panties were everywhere on the runway this season -- well, not literally everywhere, the way they might literally be everywhere on, say, the stage at a Ricky Martin concert, but they were everywhere in the fashion sense of everywhere. At the big spring fashion shows in Milan and Paris panties were what was being shown on the hottest height-and-weight-proportional runway girls (that's fashion slang for supermodel, in case you don't speak Garmento). There were panties paired with little chiffon blouses and panties paired with peplumy things and panties paired with classic white tanks, worn with nosebleed high heels and, in inclement weather, a hat. The leg (that's Garmento for 'legs,' by the way) is nude or casual-Friday dominatrix. At ease, gentlemen! Wearing tailored spread-collar shirting with nothing but Spanky Pants broadcasts an almost dizzyingly compounded message. The look is Take a Letter, Maria from the waist up, and Hello, Big Boy! there on down. Nothing has whipsawed between naughty and nice this energetically since Catherine Deneuve played a housewife/hooker in the 1967 film Belle de Jour. The poignant contrapuntal theme --most clothes have one, at least the bridge lines through couture -- is a sweet reference to a tot in a top and a diaper, although this does not account for the stiletto heels. Whatever. The rise of the panty has shifted the paradigm: instead of hemlines, now it's briefs versus bikinis, and to thong or not to thong. I see London. I see France.

 
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