Reverse-Chic Rubber Garb Springs into High Fashion

UPDATED 09/03/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/03/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

Forget Tiffany's and Cartier. Bye-bye, Bulgari. These days BF Goodrich is a girl's best friend.

With style setters like Cyndi Lauper and Diana Ross leading the way, high-tech rubber jewelry has become a bouncing business. Not that buyers have to stretch their wallets at some pricey boutique; fan-belt necklaces, gasket bracelets and 0-rings for your fingers can all be picked up at your local auto supply or plumbing store.

"It's so sexy," says aspiring rubber baron Philip Monaghan, art director at Fiorucci, where 12 bracelets can be had for $5. "It's streety rather than fantasy oriented. It's the whole vagabond look." Maripol, owner of New York's Maripolitan Popular Objects Ltd., agrees: "Nobody wants to wear pearls. Now the kids want to be hoboes." There are also practical considerations. "Rubber doesn't have to be taken off for swimming," says Dionne Monsanto of Canal Jean Co. "It's not going to tarnish and it's not going to turn."

Designers have also jumped on the rubber bandwagon. Raquel Welch is considering a Michaele Vollbracht gown made of black rubber and black lace. Vollbracht's tank swimsuit, covered with rubberized sequins, comes in two colors and sells for $170. "It's another medium to dabble in," says Janie Ruocco, a Saks' fashion coordinator.

"The advanced customer isn't afraid of it. She likes...and she buys it."

A couple of caveats: Don't miss the dinghy by buying just anything made of rubber. "Rubber for rubber's sake is postpeak," says associate fashion director at Saks, Jane Tuma. "Now we're buying it because it has a special look. It should have texture." And serious rubberneckers won't settle for plastic imitations. Once they wear the real thing, devotees claim, they seldom tire of it.

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