Arts : Clothes-minded

An ’80s trend that didn’t blow up

When I saw that bubble skirts were making a comeback this season, I nearly gagged myself with a spoon. Although made popular by Pierre Cardin in the 1950s, bubbles are really a consummate ’80s style. You may remember them best as part of Jessica McClintock-esque prom dresses made from metallic lamé and usually involving some hideous ruching and a giant bow at the bust. The low-slung, poufy skirts made your lower half look like a particularly unstable item of boudoir furniture.

But I’m starting to warm to the new, improved version of this trend, which is a good thing, because judging by New York’s fall fashion week, it seems they’re here to stay. Today’s bubble is casual and well-constructed, thoroughly modern. In unusual fabrics like kimono-style brocade, madras plaid cotton, or lighter-than-air muslin, the new bubble can be irreverent and unexpected without attracting too much attention. Designers have toned down the volume and lengthened the hems, allowing for a leaner line. While I still maintain the most crucial item in any woman’s San Antonio summer wardrobe is a lightweight, brightly printed, cotton A-line skirt (hides the thighs, cool and airy, dressier than jeans), the new bubble is an updated variation with the same perks.

Whether attached to a dress bodice or not, the bubble is actually made of two skirts — an inner, narrow skirt made of lining fabric, and the outer skirt, which has plenty of volume and is gathered in at the hem and attached to the inner skirt (creating the pouf). Any piece of clothing with horizontal volume has a tendency to throw off your proportions and make you appear shorter and squarer than you really are. So, how do you wear it well?

If you are already petite or bottom-heavy, controlling that outward volume is even more crucial. Keep the waistband low on the hips to elongate the torso, and the skirt short (say, two inches above the knee or mid-thigh if you can get away with it), to show plenty of leg. Wearing heels, especially this summer’s wedges or espadrilles with ribbon ties, will also add height. If you’re long and lean, the bubble is really made for you. The right amount of pouf can put a little junk in your trunk if needed, and create a more feminine line.

Bubble skirts, like most trends, are not for everyone. But whether you remember your Gunne Sax days fondly or regretfully, give the new bubble a try. And just be thankful it’s not another blast from your past (Leggings? Neon? Painter’s caps?) come back to haunt you.

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