Sexy slips set to ape Grandma’s fashion

From The Sunday Times, 17 January 2006, by Tony Allen-Mills

FORGET the camisole, the bustier and all the other bits of exotic underwear that have lately become more familiar as women’s skimpy outerwear. The hot international fashion trend for the northern summer this year is likely to be the petticoat.

Several decades after the fashion world’s least fashionable undergarment seemed to vanish from boutique racks, a giant gorilla and his female sidekick are helping to spur a comeback.

Thanks in no small part to King Kong, who recently returned to cinemas with Australian actor Naomi Watts as his love interest, the US is rediscovering the petticoat. The New York Times declared last week: “If an 800-pound gorilla thinks it’s hot, so, dear, do you.”

Watts spends much of the film scampering around in a fetching lace-trimmed slip. Not since Elizabeth Taylor appeared in her underwear in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1958 has a film star’s petticoat caused such a fashion stir.

Fashion gurus have lined up to predict that women tired of the tacky excesses of Madonna-style bras and bustiers would soon be gratefully turning to what one retail executive described as “the new pristine version of sexiness”. While the lingerie business has been exploding globally — with sales in the US alone expected to rise to $US10 billion ($13.2 billion) a year in the next three years — the petticoat appeared to have lost its allure as every woman’s underpinning.

Then came Watts in her role as Ann Darrow, taken captive by a giant lovelorn ape. Conveniently captured while only half-dressed, Watts survives attacks by dinosaurs and giant spiders — not to mention a night in Kong’s grasp — while appearing both chaste and sexy.

Several prominent US department stores have announced new styles in petticoat, some by well-known designers such as Betsey Johnson and Donna Karan.

A spokeswoman for Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie chain, declared that petticoats were “a major trend”.

Reese Witherspoon, expected to be an Oscar contender this year, also appeared in a petticoat in Walk the Line, the new film about Johnny Cash, the country and western singer.

“If young women want to dress like film stars,” one New York fashion writer declared, “they had better raid their grandma’s wardrobe”.

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