Fashions and Fads

updated 05/28/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/28/1984 01:00AM

The rag business is out to show its true colors with this summer's hot look: shmatte chic. Singer Cyndi Lauper proved that Girls Just Want to Have Fun wearing them, and now anyone can model the elegantly shabby (and very cool) look with the Bag of Rags—a one-yard-by-two-yard, tie-dyed gauze strip wrapped around three other dyed rags. The cost: $18. New York hairdresser Michael Gordon, who began producing his glad rags in January, has already shipped 85,000 to major retail outlets in England and 31 states—from Bloomingdale's in New York to Bullock's in Los Angeles. Actress Elizabeth McGovern, model Kelly Emberg and New York City break-dance crews will all wrap themselves in rags this summer. Gordon attributes his rags' popularity to their versatility. Originally designed for the hair, the rags also tie into a bra, rip into bracelets, knot into a belt. They can be sewn into a dress or gathered into practically any article of clothing. Gordon started pushing the rag look during a 1982 photo shoot, when he borrowed a photographer's lens-cleaning gauze to tie in a model's hair. Now he pays Broadway and film designer Deirdre Kavanagh, who worked on the costumes for Cats and (what else?) Ragtime, to hand dye cotton gauze into 28 no-run, no-fade colors—one shade in each bag to match every skin tone. A couple of his summer bags provide a suitably skimpy wardrobe—and very little protection from sunburn.

For those who want to be shielded from the sun's burning rays but still want a tan all over—and that means all over—there is The Unsuit. Before putting it on the market, actress Ann Turkel (formerly Mrs. Richard Harris), whose boyfriend, nutritionist Hans Buhringer, actually designed the material, personally tested the suit in 95° weather in Florida and Mexico. The pure cotton fabric is woven in such a way as to allow tanning rays to peep through while filtering out harmful zaps of ultraviolet. But here's the rub: Since the Unsuit provides a built-in No. 6 sun block, the wearer has to slather a No. 6 sun block on the uncovered parts of the body to ensure an even tan.

Turkel, for one, is thrilled with the overall results: "A tan hides a multitude of sins—cellulite, stretch marks and varicose veins." Sun worshippers apparently agree; they're eagerly plunking down $40 for the one-piece version, $38 for the bikini model and $36 for the men's Unsuit brief. With sales of more than $5 million before the season even begins, the Unsuit has found its place in the sun along with these other summer fads and fancies:

•Lite products.
They first came on the market in the form of low-tar cigarettes and low-cal beer in the 1970s, but this summer consumers will be spending millions on low-starch, low-salt, low-caffeine, low-whatever spaghetti sauce, wine, soft drinks, pancake syrup, potato chips, even cigars. Got a lite?

•The hot vacation spots.
Forget Cancún, Maui and Mykonos. The Caribbean is kaput. The real movers and shakers are flocking to Fiji—the islet of Toberua, to be exact. Guests pay $100 a day (meals not included) for the pleasure of sleeping in thatch-roofed huts. Stateside, there's Tall Timber, a hideaway outside Durango, Colo. The 180-acre spread is reachable only by helicopter or a steam train, and there is room for just 30 guests at $195 per day. There are no phones, but Tall Timber does boast a spa, pool, tennis courts and golf course. That's really roughing it.

•Peas in a pod.
As gardens get smaller and tastes get fancier, the plot thickens in thousands of backyards with a new veggie called the Sugar Ann snap pea. Named by professional horticulturists as one of the best new vegetables of 1984, Sugar Ann is the first dwarf plant grown in the U.S. with a mature pod you can eat along with the peas. That means you don't have to shell them before you cook them. Aw, shucks.

•Southern cooking.
New Yorkers are gobbling up corn bread, ribs, pork barbecue and collard greens at restaurants like Carolina and Jack's Nest, while in L.A., the place to go for deep fried okra and gumbo Creole is the American Bar and Grill. But the best may still be found in New Orleans, where K. Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, run by Paul Prudhomme, serves up Cajun and Creole dishes like jambalaya and crawfish bisque. Goodbye, sushi. Hello, true grits.

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