women’s club

THERE’S SOMETHING INNATELY SENSUAL about an attractive man in a really good suit. And something equally pulse-quickening about a beautiful woman in man’s clothing. Dietrich, Lombard, Hepburn: More than a few memorable stars based charisma, if not careers, on wearing the pants. That Madonna Ciccone and Sandra Bernhard have been m and out of more than one man’s closet is obvious. And Annie Lennox pushes the androgeny button all the way to the bank.

This fall, fashion designers follow suit, with exquisitely tailored menswear serving as the pivotal element in all the best womenswear collections. Designers who have never debuted a collection without some form of le smoking, i.e., Yves St. Laurent, Lagerfeld and Armani, did the suit even better this year, offering the kind of multifunction, day and evening options that gentlemen take for granted but women have had to work to get. The classic American good-sports club chaired by Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan showcased a mouthwatering assortment of gen-ded menswear shapes and fabrics that cover a well-toned feminine body in ways that speak hubba-hubba more than haberdashery.

And in a season where fashion’s idea machine seemed trampled by economics, this femme-flattering menswear is a standout. In Dallas, where men are men and women fight the big-hair rap, this news will definitely separate the women from the good ol’ boys. As evidence that it’s a salient wardrobe idea, we offer four couples who manage to suit up and stay together.

SUSAN POWTER and LINCOLN APELAND

Calvin Klein reinvents classic banker’s grays in one of fall’s most elegant menswear looks designed for women: Health and fitness guru Susan Powter wears Klein’s chalk-striped, double-breasted jacket, underscored by a lean, tunic vest and charcoal cashmere crewneck. over a narrow calf-length skirt. Four-and-a-half years ago Powter was a 260-pound homemaker living in Garland-unhappily. Powter lost 133 pounds through diet, exercise and the lifestyle techniques she shares at her exercise studio in North Dallas. Shortly after being reborn, the revitalized, slenderized Powter met Lincoln Apeland, a songwriter and guitarist in the local band Naked Truth. Six weeks later, they were married. Here, Apeland is wearing a charcoal cashmere blazer, charcoal shirt and cuffed charcoal trouser from Calvin Klein’s stellar new collection for men.

Calvin Klein womenswear: Blazer available at the Calvin Klein boutique, Tootsies, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Vest available at the Calvin Klein boutique and Tootsies. Crewneck available at the Calvin Klein boutique and Neiman Marcus. Skirt available at the Calvin Klein boutique, Tootsies and Saks.

Calvin Klein menswear: available at the Calvin Klein boutique in Dallas.

LEON BANOWETZ and MOLLY BURNS

Leon Banowetz and Molly Burns are the Ricky and Lucy of Dallas’ graphic design scene as partners in the firm Banowetz & Company. Banowetz is calm, collected, detail-oriented. Burns is redheaded, Irish and big picture. Their wedding invitation was a plumber’s friend tagged “We’re taking the plunge,” and matrimonial bliss is now at four years and counting. Banowetz and Burns shop together and know immediately what works for them. He focuses on cut, color and fabric, then price; Bums is a frenzied bargain shopper. Both prefer alternative evening looks and are known for their personal style. Banowetz is in Rei Kawakubo’s double-breasted, tabbed jacket, trouser and Mylar mock turtleneck for Comme des Garcons Homme. Bums wears Kawakubo’s sheer crepe evening tank, an elegant, version of a man’s T-shirt, and boxy, man-tailored jacket.

Comme des Garcons and Comme des Garcons Homme are available at Barneys New York.

TERESA LABARBERA-WHITES and KENT WHITES

Giorgio Armani does not believe in cross dressing. Though his name and label are synonymous with elegant, status clothing for men, he softens it for women. Here, Teresa LaBarbera and Kent Whites present the male and female Armani point-of-view. LaBarbera finds and fosters regional musicians and bands for Sony Music. Whites is resident choreographer for Ballet Dallas and has been dancing since he was 7. Married four years, the couple shares jeans, trousers, shirts, sweaters and jackets: She likes hers oversized and baggy; he likes his tight. For their pas de deux, LaBarbera is in Armani’s double-breasted jacket and slender pant in charcoal gray with cinnamon stripes. Whites cavorts en pointe in the mens-wear equivalent, both from Le Collezioni by Giorgio Armani.

The collection is available at Stanley Korshak and Neiman Marcus.

LIZ and KIM KOHLER

Kim Kohler was taken aback when confronted with Donna Karan’s black wool ski pant with stirrups, a key piece in Karan’s premier collection for men that debuted this fall, and part of a modernist take on comfortable, evening-out alternatives. The accompanying black zip-front turtleneck and cashmere and down baseball jacket seemed more familiar-maybe. Liz Kohler advised against quick judgments and urged a try-on. It worked. The Kohlers admit to a shopping system involving dual approval. Though they have been married for 19 years and are the parents of 6-year-old Hannah, sparks flew across the dressing room as Liz slipped into Donna Karan’s cold-shouldered tuxedo jacket and skirt. Kim, a vice president at Tracy Locke, puts on the standard uniform out of necessity: an adventure is wearing denim to the office. Liz is a fiber artist who favors cotton basics, and shops for special pieces when she needs to. Donna Karan is a wardrobe wizard whose systematic approach works for both.

Donna Karan’s tuxedo and skirt are available at The Gazebo and Stanley Korshak. Donna Karan menswear collection is available at Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York.

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