It was the best of the ‘80s, it was the worst of the ‘80s.

There they were, peeking out from practically every skirt, dress and coat on the runways of Los Angeles Fashion Week in March.

Cropped leggings, black leggings and even colorful ones. Not to mention the opaque tights and knee-high socks.

For the most part, the look worked well, especially when paired with belted, billowy silhouettes. It's probably the only way to offset the skintight leggings: Throw on something loose and full up top, cinch it at the waist and make sure the top is long enough to go just past the hips. Repeat after me: “I am a mushroom. I am a stylish mushroom.”

“It's all about shape this coming season,” says designer David Meister.

That explained the cocoon coats, balloon tops and bubble skirts from his debut runway collection at Fashion Week. A belted jersey shirtdress came with pretty sleeves that were fitted at the upper arm, then balloon-shaped from elbow to wrist. It was paired with opaque black leggings and black patent platform pumps.

At the highly anticipated Collection bebe show, buyers and press who came thinking about the trendy mall favorite's line of clubbing-appropriate clothing were taken aback by the line's new couture slant. Designed by David Cardona and Arianne Phillips, the collection was impeccably executed.

Designer Sue Wong, known for her beaded slipdresses that sell well at Nordstrom, clung to last year's embellishment craze. Dresses had asymmetrical hems that were paneled, fringed or diaphanous. Gowns paired with fishnet stockings, fedoras and feather boas looked fit for a saloon.

Leggings and voluminous tops aside, designers seemed to agree on emphasizing the waist with wide patent-leather belts.

And wouldn't you know it, after making the mistake of wearing a dress one rainy day to Fashion Week, leggings started to make some sense.

© 2006, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).

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