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Chanel and Lacroix deliver more calf Politics Nation Now Politics Now Top of the Ticket Science Science Now Obituaries World World Now Afghanistan war Africa Americas Asia Europe Middle East Business Money Co. Top of the Ticket Readers Rep Shop Daily Deals Travel Offers Weekly Circulars Offers Deals Sports Gear LA Times Product See More Member Center Alerts Newsletters Jobs Cars Real Estate Rentals Weekly Circulars Local Directory Place Ad That was the moment Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld had unleashed a towel set, a terry cloth velour sarong skirt and cardigan jacket, onto the runway a low point of the morning. If designers can t decide what looks right, it s a good bet plenty of women can. They rejected the miniskirt last time it was pushed on them. Chances are they ll reject mid calf and longer skirts, too. They are awkward, immobilizing and worst of all unflattering. "Women won t wear them," jewelry designer Paloma Picasso said before the Monday Dior show. "We don t want anything extreme. Not extremely short or extremely long," she said, adding, "I haven t seen any collections I ve liked lately." At Chanel, Lagerfeld tried every length, starting with a 1950s couture look, cut an elegant half inch below the knee. That \o7 did \f7 work, and it looked new, especially in a series of reed thin, pastel tweed suits with high waisted, back slit skirts. He showed them with hip length strands of crystal beads mixed with medium , not mega , weight gold chains. The show was a change in direction to a subtler, softer image for Chanel. For one thing, Lagerfeld peeled off half the accessories he has shown in recent collections. Fishnet and black leather have made way for pastoral fig leaf jewelry, garlands of necklaces, new ugg boots for women straw hats resembling thatched roofs and country girl wooden clogs. Colors were creamy blues, ivories and pinks or warm pastels. But as the Chanel show went on, hemlines fell toward mid calf on some white knit tube dresses. And the dresses seemed to rebel; they kept riding up to the models knees. An ankle grazing shirtwaist all but overwhelmed the tall Bardot like model Claudia Schiffer, even though she wore it unbuttoned over matching short shorts. Shorts under long skirts, worn open to the waist in front, found their way into many spring collections. For evening, Chanel paired white ribbed muscleman T shirts, the kind that come three to a pack at the drugstore, with luxurious black silk evening skirts mid calf length columns. But that didn t work much better than the towel set. The fabrics refused to blend, the proportions were off, and the whole thing looked contrived and forced. Pale tulle ballgown size skirts went with Gap style single pocket white T shirts, as well as nubby tweed daytime jackets. This made for a softer club scene look than the black tulle and motorcycle jackets of Chanel s last collection. There were certainly things for Chanel shoppers to buy in this collection. The daytime suits that women are most likely to sink $4,000 or so into were some of the best clothes. But all told, the designer has gone back to the woods, in more ways than one. Christian Lacroix has always shown his collections in his own salon, a whimsical, salmon colored room on rue Faubourg Saint Honore where \o7 haute couture \f7 customers go for fittings. But the small space required the staging of as many as five shows per day during fashion week. This time, he moved into one of the tents in the Cour Carree, a courtyard of the Louvre where most of the shows are held. Lacroix jackets were the best thing in the show. They were appliqued, embroidered, colorful and cut in short or longer shapes. They could be toned down or tuned up, depending on how a woman wanted to wear them. One standout was a marine blue duster, with a silver emblem embroidered on the back, worn unbuttoned over narrow white pants and a striped navy T shirt. An ivory silk dress, mid calf length, all pleats and worn belted, was another strong step toward simple, elegant dressing. So UGG WOMENS BOOTS MINI BAILEY BUTTON GREY was a knee baring navy blue evening dress with a sheer overdress that fluttered in the graceful, ladylike manner that is pure Lacroix. But the designer started to go overboard when he brought out the prints. They collided in a riot of patterns, prints and colors. Lacroix s signature heart and hand print, a new black and white graffiti print, and an assortment of pastel houndstooth checks seemed to clash in every outfit. Pants included a pair ugg outlet store in a peach and pink print, cropped, cuffed and topped by a green houndstooth swing coat that took the outfit somewhere over the top.

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