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Kris
July 5th, 2003, 07:57 PM
July 6, 2003

Up, Up And Away

By CATHY HORYN

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/07/06/fashion/06short.2.jpg
LUNCHTIME JOLT Rebecca Mader's hot pants turned heads at the Four Seasons restaurant.

Most New Yorkers think they have seen everything, and so nothing shocks them. They ride on the subway and are not put off by the physical brazenness of a couple locked in a tongue-groping embrace, because New York is a brazen place and its tortures are almost always physical. The city is so crowded, especially in summer, that even its weirder spectacles take place on top of each other — a man wearing only underpants sings for his supper in Times Square while below ground another man performs an erotic tango with a life-size doll. All this is absorbed in stride.

But on a recent afternoon at the corner of Park Avenue and 52nd Street, and on Fifth Avenue in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral and on a northbound N train something did shock New Yorkers.

It was an object that weighed no more than a few ounces and measured 5 inches in length and 13 inches in width — about the size of a washcloth folded in half. Yet it was not as innocent as a washcloth, and in the minds of a startling number of New Yorkers it was not as clean either.

At 1 p.m. a woman got out of a taxi in front of the Waldorf-Astoria and walked toward 52nd Street, on her way to have lunch at the Four Seasons, where Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller were also dining. She had on a cream Chanel jacket, a pale pink blouse and a pair of hot pants that looked more like briefs. Her legs were bare, and she had on high heels. Her outfit was exactly as Karl Lagerfeld had shown it on the Chanel runway for the current season. The woman, Rebecca Mader, was a Ford model and an actress whom I had hired for this expedition. But because she is not unusually tall and has long wavy red hair she could easily have been taken for just another pretty young woman.

The murmurs began to fly as soon as she reached the corner, where workers from nearby offices were sitting in the sunshine on a low wall and waiting in line at a food cart. Many young men, their gazes beginning approvingly at Ms. Mader's face and working their way down — over her silk blouse, her string of beads and tiny belt — blurted, "Oh!" and then an expletive. Others said, "Oh, my God!" and looked twice.

It was as if Ms. Mader had suddenly become a tree; every eye had settled upon her, filling the air with nervous twitter. For while her ladylike jacket may have killed the thought that she was cheaply dressed, it did not remove the suspicion that she had something illicit up her sleeve, and probably for that reason the female pedestrians looked at her harshly and frowned.

One man on the wall, who worked for an investment bank, deemed her shorts inappropriate for Midtown, saying they belonged on a hooker.

It can be argued that much of what passes for acceptable summer attire in New York once belonged to prostitutes — the ultrashort minis you see worn with flimsy undershirts and ankle-tied stilettos, the low-cut jeans that sometimes reveal unsightly amounts of flesh.

Beginning in the early 1990's, with Alexander McQueen's "bumster" trousers, which dropped waists well below the navel, fashion shifted its focus away from women's breasts to women's bottoms; what first appeared as a remote particle on the horizon is now a universal style. Only one inch of fabric separates Ms. Mader's shorts from ordinary hot pants. But apparently for many women, exposing four inches of bare belly is easier to accept than the last inch of leg.

Ms. Mader entered the Four Seasons. The Grill Room, a scene of power lunching, was crowded, and again reaction to her shorts was animated. As the restaurant's co-owner, Julian Niccolini, led Ms. Mader to her table, a dozen patrons seated along the west banquette wall turned their heads in succession, like crockery spilling off a shelf on a listing ship. Some male guests nudged each other and smiled. Two women sitting at the first table giggled. Mr. Kissinger, who was dining with a female guest in the center of the room, did not appear to notice.

After lunch, Mr. Niccolini said he had not hesitated to admit Ms. Mader. He seemed delighted that something had jolted his well-heeled patrons. "Today we got the same reaction that we did when Jackie O first showed up at the Four Seasons," he said, beaming.

In the past decade or so, designers have pushed one boundary after another, first with transparency and fetishism and more recently with styles based on lingerie. To a huge degree, women have gone along. At the same time, performers like Britney Spears and Missy Elliott have made wearing tight and skimpy clothes cool, especially among young women who don't have perfect bodies.

Briefs as sporty play shorts have appeared on runways before, largely as dismissible gimmicks. But last October, at the spring collections in Europe, Mr. Lagerfeld and Miuccia Prada seemed to take them more seriously, with Mr. Lagerfeld pairing his with dressy Chanel jackets and accessories, as if to remove both their illicit and sporty taint. Mr. Lagerfeld was offering more, of course, than a new suit proportion. He was laying down a gauntlet.

Several stores picked up the idea, including Barneys New York, which sold a limited number of what it called boy shorts in its sportswear departments. And since the weather turned hot, one or two young women have been spotted around Times Square in cutoff denim versions.

Ms. Mader left the Four Seasons and headed toward Fifth Avenue, trailed by more murmurs and the odd wolf whistle. Outside St. Patrick's, Tony Souza, a bank worker, said of her outfit: "It's too short. She looks good, but. . . ." He shook his head. Rebecca Emerson, a student from Australia, said, "I'd wear the shorts on the beach, but not walking down the street where people can see me."

Ms. Mader reached Tiffany's just as Doris Bardon, a retiree from Gainesville, Fla., was coming out of the revolving door with Abby Belkin of Manhattan. Ms. Bardon was philosophical. "I live in a college town, and it's not uncommon to see the girls in very brief clothing," she said. "I mean, it's what they're featuring on `Sex and the City.' Put it all together."

Later, on a northbound N train, Danny Havlicek, an engineer from the Bronx, fell into a conversation with the man sitting next to him, Michael Olenick, who was visiting from Florida. As they watched Ms. Mader, who was standing a few feet away, Mr. Havlicek said, "I'd never leave New York."

They agreed that she looked nice but when asked what difference one inch of fabric made to an otherwise respectable style, Mr. Havlicek shrugged and said, "Sex."

Though many men objected to the outfit on the grounds that it was too sexy, women's faces and comments expressed emotions ranging from envy to disgust. Ms. Mader, who is British, said: "The men seem to find it hugely entertaining — a great story for the pub. However, I'm picking up a completely different vibe from the women. They seem to hate me for it."

Caroline Rennolds Milbank, a fashion historian, said that women may have reached the saturation point with the kind of scantiness made generic by pop stars and shows like "Sex and the City."

"Part of me is thrilled that there is still something considered inappropriate," said Ms. Milbank, who has been noticing more old-fashioned sundresses on the street lately.

Yet an even more profound change, says Stefano Tonchi, the fashion creative director of Esquire, is how many women have rejected the notion that they have to be stick thin to wear skimpy clothes. So maybe what women resented about Ms. Mader's outfit was that it snobbishly said in effect, "You have to look like me to wear this." And if that's true, then in their eyes she was not attractive or threatening but woefully passé. "That skinny, skinny look of `Sex and the City' is really over," Mr. Tonchi said.

It just may be that what New Yorkers were reacting to was not the shock of the new, but the shock of the old.

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/07/06/fashion/06short.1.jpg
BODY LANGUAGE On the subway, Karl Lagerfeld's design drew critical attention.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
July 6th, 2003, 05:12 PM
Yow. *Any higher and those hot pants would be classified as a belt.

phxmania2001
July 7th, 2003, 08:03 AM
Wow... slow news day.

Nce shorts. :D

Punzie
December 18th, 2006, 04:43 AM
I stumbled on this topic when I made a typo in my search for "Nader".:D


Rebecca Mader is now starring in a Fox legal drama TV show called "Justice":


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/73/Justice.tvseries.jpg


Do you recognize her co-star? It's the extradinary "old pro" Victor Garber. I still remember him bouncing around in "Godspell" in the early 1970s.

(To her right: Kerr Smith. To her far left: Eamonn Walker.)

She is looking beautiful and... more covered up.;)

Daniella
June 11th, 2010, 02:43 AM
Who wouldn't catch attention with that beautiful face and body? Honestly, even if I am a female, I would be pretty attracted with her.. Well, not in a "gay" manner, but attracted in the sense of liking what she has..

Ninjahedge
June 11th, 2010, 07:58 AM
D-D-DOUBLE NECRO POST!!!!!!!


Holy revival Batman!!!!!!

2K3 -> 2K6 -> 2010!!!!!!

dtolman
June 15th, 2010, 10:56 AM
This story should be bumped every few years - on principle.

archnyer
July 5th, 2010, 03:46 PM
Lagerfeld kicks *** but that "model" is far from hawt.