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Gleaming metallics

Metallics aren't just for evening any more, to paraphrase the famous dancing gear ad. The glitter and the gold are now going 'round the clock. The bronze pump, the pewter leather handbag, the Lurex-threaded challis shawl, and the qilt-edged jacket are just a few samples of the vogue for metallics that has taken over in the everyday world of dressing. That which was once reserved for moments of high life is now woven into the very fabric of fall/winter fashion.

The break in convention could be seen coming a few years ago when Yves Saint Laurent's gold-shot scarves for daytime became a must with French fashionables. Then gold pipings became a favored fashion detail.

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Later, a sort of gold rush took over. It was a brief but intense fad, prompted by Fiorucci, the Milan-based chain of kicky popular-priced apparel. For a while, the Italian firm's branch in New York couldn't keep up with the demand for gold cowboy boots, gold belts, gold bags, and other Midas-touched glitter. This time, the metal fervor is more serious.

The reason may lie in the new burnished qualities of this season's metallics. Unlike the flash-in-the-pan gold of a few years ago, the new metallics are often antiqued, with a subtle, almost tarnished cast. Lurexed daytime fabrics and knits have more glint than glitter. Even the evening lames, which have the look of molten metal, are richer and, you might say, a lot less glitzy.

The big added advantage the new metals have, curiously enough, is their basic go-with-everything quality. It turns out that copper, greeny bronze, and smoky pewter in particular have surprising tonal ranges and act as great pickups for various dark or pale muted colors.

Copper (which, incidentally -- and who knows why -- is often being called "bronze" by the fashion industry) is great with burgundy, cassis, rust, olive, and all shades of brown, black, and even winter navy. Bronze is a natural complement to beiges, khaki, browns, and dark greens. Pewter looks marvelous with taupe, different tones of blue, and, of course, the grays. Most metallics go beautifully with white, black, or cream.

Some observers think the metal mania may have started with the short straight gold kid skirt that Saint Laurent showed a year ago, which subsequently was widely imitated. Whatever its beginnings, the mode for metallics is here and there is no escaping its importance.

As early as last May store buyers were taken by surprise. Although French, Italian, and American designers all made free in their fall collections with copper, silver, gunmetal, bronze, and gold as ornamentation, accessories, and whole garments, retailers were unprepared for the sudden demand.

Shirl Miller's $40 tote (made of vinyl metallized with copper, pewter, or silver) walked out of stores all over the country. Even minimal reorders on bronze pumps and sandals were impossible to fill as customers snapped them up and manufacturers searched high and low for new stocks of materials. With such a start, will metallics shine on through Christmas? Given time, too much in blinding amounts may dim.

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But educated guesses in fashion circles are that various touches -- edgings and trimmings, and such accessories as shoes, handbags, wide cinches, and ropey belts washed with glints of metal -- are here to stay on well through next spring and summer.

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