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Brightest & Boldest. Ebullient and supremely self-confident, the new young stylesetters couldn't care less about looking like ladies. They demand to look smashing in a theatrical, sexy and aggressively individual manner. No longer are clothes meant to fit like a soft, beautifully made glove; instead, they are free and unbinding. No longer do colors blend in a bouquet-like ensemble; it is much more fun to make them clash, vibrate, gleam and sparkle. And if designers don't give them what they crave, youth invent it for themselves.
"Harper's Bazaar used to be able to say, 'This year you wear green,' or whatever," says its editor, Nancy White, "but not any longer." Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland agrees that what gives the new fashions their fresh look and vitality is youth: "This generation stepped out and away and did things their way." As a result, notes Vreeland, "no one is obliged to wear anything she doesn't want to, and one can go as far as she wants. She can wear absolutely anything that is wildly becoming."
Now that next spring's fashions have been previewed in Manhattan for department-store buyers across the nation, the trend is clear. Clothes will be more wildly becoming than ever. Designers who are tuned in on the new wave length have produced a crop of dresses that are not only the brightest, boldest and happiest in memory but also the shortest and most revealing (see color pages).
No-Bra Bra & See-Throughs. No designer these days reveals more than California's Rudi Gernreich, 45, the man who shocked the world in 1964 with his topless bathing suit. No stylesetter has capitalized with more flair on the current vogue for exposure; but even his critics grant that Rudi's topless was only an incident in his rapid rise to leadership as the most way-out, far-ahead designer in the U.S. When he was inducted into Fashion's Hall of Fame this fall the sixth U.S. designer to be so honored he was hailed by the selection committee as "one of the fabulous originals," the designer who has been so consistently a front runner that "like World War II's Kilroy, wherever one looks in fashion, it seems 'Gernreich was here.' "
Gernreich (which he pronounces to rhyme with earn quick) made his mark by being not only the first U.S. designer to raise skirts well above the knee but also the first with such trend-setting styles as colored stockings, now so overwhelmingly popular, which he showed as part of what he called "the total look," with dress, stockings and sometimes a hood all matching. Along the way, he has introduced vinyl clothes developed out of a material that looks completely "today" and a series of freeing designs aimed at giving back to the female body its natural look and curves, including his knit tank suits, his No-Bra bra, and sheer, see-through nylon blouses.