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Femininity and Innocence Exude in Collection That Defines the Figure

October 30, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ Laura Ashley’s tiny floral prints have blossomed into bouquets and her trademark Victorian designs have been updated for spring and summer to include styles of the Edwardian period and the nostalgic ’30s, ‘40s and ’50s.

Gone also are the loose-fitting smocks that have so long been associated with the Laura Ashley name. In their place are silhouettes that, although far from body-hugging, follow a woman’s contours much more closely.

The new collection is ultra feminine, innocent and awash in pastels and occasionally vibrant colors, such as cerise, jade and Mediterranean blue.

The line is much leaner and more sophisticated than at any other time since the family-owned business opened in London in 1953.

The demise of the familiar Laura Ashley look is in no way related to the accidental death of Mrs. Ashley in September, said Sarah Callander, the company’s international publicity director.

Rather, the new collection reflects the tastes of Nick Ashley, Mrs. Ashley’s 29-year-old son who began taking over the helm three years ago, Ms. Callander said.

″Nick has a very strong feeling in a romantic way as well, but it’s reflected by the ’30s, ‘40s and ’50s, a time when people had a certain amount of glamour and style,″ she said.

″This is the first time you’re seeing a very distinct silhouette,″ Ms. Callander said. ″Instead of the ruffle and frill of the early Laura Ashley look, you now have a combination of color and print and a simple, clean silhouette.″

There is not one disappointing dress or ensemble in the entire collection, and as before all the fabrics are natural, mainly cotton and linen.

Some eye-catchers include an Edwardian-influenced, drop-waist cotton dress, in pale pink, with a pared-down sailor collar and white tie. The sleeves with white piping brush the elbows, and the shirt is lightly pleated. Tiny white buttons fasten the back.

A ’50s strapless floral dress with a body-hugging bodice and flared skirt with slash pockets is paired with a matching short-waisted jacket with leg-of- mutton sleeves.

Another drop-waist dress - a recurring theme - is a sleeveless cotton jersey dress in scarlet with white polka dots. Slightly loose-fitting, it has a scooped neckline, envelope pockets and undefined pleats.

A navy blue linen pants suit, with double-breasted jacket and cuffed trousers, is equally perfect for business and play.

Especially smashing was a group of crisp white linen dresses and blouses, with pleated bodices and neat cuffed sleeves, all shown with up-turned brim straw hats.

Laura Ashley’s swimwear line consists of a classic tank style in red and white stripes or a vibrant floral print. The suits are coordinated with sarongs and head scarves or oversized, below-the-knee shirts.

There also is a wonderful selection of children’s clothing, including mother-daughter outfits.

By December 1986, Ms. Callander said the company will add an infant-toddler line.

Mrs. Ashley built her reputation on affordable fashions, and that aspect has not changed. Skirts range in price from $50-$95; dresses are $65-$125; and blouses run $50-$85.

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