Break Out Your Bell-Bottoms: from Madonna to Main Street, Groovy '60s Fashions Are Back—with a Twist

updated 01/28/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/28/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Remember the '60s? Psychedelic prints, hip-hugger bell-bottoms and baby-doll dresses? You know, That kitten-with-a-mission Girl, Mario Thomas, in her skimpy sheaths, glued-on lashes and flirtatiously coiffed "flip"? Or First (and always a) Lady Jackie Kennedy, perfect and poised in her neat little suits? And teenage Cher, who bared her belly button, burned her bra and, decked out in frayed, flared denims, put the hip into hippy?

Sound familiar? Sound good? Well, hang on to your hot pants, because from white go-go boots and lipstick to white gloves and matching bag, it's all coming back, same as it ever was.

All right...not the same. "I get a little angry when people call it the '60s look," scolds Macy's fashion director Ellin Saltzman, "because it's not." Certain styles, she says, "remind" us of that decade, such as the short dresses that are appearing on catwalks and magazine covers almost as fast as they're disappearing from department-store racks. But, she agrees, "It's done in a '90s fashion. It might be called a Babe Paley or Jackie Kennedy dress, but it's really the return of the day dress for people who were not around the first time."

Ironically, thanks to the stretch of modern fibers (such as Lycra)—as well as modern minds—the second time around is not only different but, many say. better. ¦"The witty lines of the '60s came too soon," says Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld. "Designers then didn't have the materials to go as far as they could have, and women were limited by the lifestyle and taboos of the period."

Not, of course, that the '90s know no limits. "The rule of thumb," warns Saltzman. "is, if you're old enough to remember it. you're too old to wear it." But for some, taste—or the lack thereof—knows no age. "I don't like the wide bell-bottom look." says designer Nicole Miller (whose spring collection did include some '60s-inspired dresses). "This baby-doll thing is a look that I hate, and the psychedelic Pucci look is an insult to Pucci. These knockoffs," she predicts, "will be the first things to be thrown out of the closet."

Don't bet on it, says fashion forecaster Bernie Ozer. "There are people who will have to see it over and over again before they catch on to it." he says. "But it will happen." Oh, well. As even Miller concedes, it could be worse. "God help us," she moans, "when they start on the trends of the mid-'70s." Remember platform shoes?

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