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Betsey Johnson’s Show Phantasmagorical; Sally Beers’ Lacked Humor

April 23, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ Neon pterodactyl, spider and speckled trout motifs fly, crawl and swim through Betsey Johnson’s new collection of frivolous costumes for fall. Sally Beers, who also designs street clothes for the young at heart, was more sober and a lot less fun.

Ms. Johnson’s show Monday resurrected go-go girls, mods and rockers, hippies and gurus and gloried in all things psychedelic. Platinum, teased hair and dark eye makeup abounded.

One nice retro idea was a batch of fringed mini flapper dresses, which Ms. Johnson calls ″the return of the shimmy.″ Subdued in solid black or white or blinding in op-art bands of hot pink, orange and yellow, the dress was made for dancing.

The performance of punky models smoking cigarettes and carrying beer bottles down the runway, sneering at the delighted viewers, almost stole the eye from a series of basic black rib-knit mini dresses. Without the black fishnet stockings, menacing spiked wristbands, metal-laden hip-slung belts and lace-up ankle boots, the little dresses were, heaven forbid, quite functional.

Some straightforward turtleneck knit minis were shown with matching tights under big fishnets. But the look fell apart at the waist, which was cinched with a too-wide leather cummerbunds.

The prehistoric birds flap across thigh-high sweater dresses of wool and acrylic with matching leggings. The pair comes in combinations of orange, hot pink and flaming violet for about $125.

That relic of femininity past, the crinoline, is reincarnated as a skirt. In one odd combination, a hot pink petticoat peeked out from under a slouchy pterodactyl sweater and was worn with a fake zebra skin muff and scarf.

Accessorizing to the max, Ms. Johnson showed beat berets, long cigarette holders, jester hats with bells, chains and even rabbits’ feet. Yes, dangling from zipper pulls were clusters of rabbits’ feet in rainbow colors.

And there was no shortage of funny props. Models played 52-card pickup with the audience and handed out sugar cubes reminiscent of LSD days. Some flung tulips and irises into the crowd, and others tossed gold-like doubloons. Everyone had a good time.

One thing that can be said about her self-consciously outrageous style - they are comfortable. Whether one would be comfortable being seen in them is another matter.

Although she, too, used knits and minis extensively and turned to the ’50s for inspiration, Ms. Beers’ collection was staid by comparison.

Dominated by blacks and olive drab, the fall line was a mixture of tank tops and skin-tight cropped pants, clingy jersey dresses and three-quarter jackets.

Turquoise cotton-polyester velour was the perfect fabric for second skin pants that stop just above the knee and tank tops, but be warned, there is no camouflage for bulges.

Peek-a-boo holes and arm-length glooves added interest to a couple of otherwise plain black sheath dresses. Others were dressed up with sewn-on leather patches shaped as arrows or crescents.

Rows of pom-pom trim along the side seams of otherwise ordinary black tight pants provided one of the more whimsical touches of the collection.

And red wool double-knit jersey made a nice long-sleeve, round-collar, button-front mini dress, but it needed more pizazz. This kind of dress could be the workhorse of a fall wardrobe, but the designer didn’t give any accessory ideas.

Ms. Beers seems not to have developed a fashion signature. Still, members of her youthful audience seemed to have no trouble adding scarfs, socks, turbans, gloves, sunglasses, costume jewelry and assorted kitsch to make their own statement.

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