The Chinese are Layering

 “Here come the bitches,” one of the otherbitches, er, models said—and here, finally, they were: the 11 beautiful young women we'd been breathlessly awaiting, marching up the just-applied red carpet outside Sutra on a recent Wednesday night. Bitch.It was the launch of the spring/summer 2006 J'aime collection (pronounced like “gem,” badly, in French)—actress-designer Jaime Pressly's label—and with wristbands and velvet ropes and free-drink press passes, it was all very spot-on. Until it began, and we all realized that America's Next Top Modelwinner Adrianne Curry was right there in front of us, in big sunglasses, fourth from left. Then it got good.

Curry took her glasses off at some point, as the photogs from the Reg and probably also Riviera magazine blazed away; then the other models trundled off backstage, which was somewhere by the kitchen, and she posed just with Pressly.

“I look like a midget—that's politically incorrect!—a little person,” Pressly lamented, and next to Curry she was short. And mean!No, just short. We all were; Curry is, like, 8-foot-12—which puts even her fiancé, the tallish Christopher “Peter Brady” Knight, at a slight disadvantage. They werecute together, though, and worth burning through another 500 digital frames, after which we scuttled inside for the show.

It was late starting, which gave us plenty of time to admire the stage at Sutra: a gigantic “L” of raised wooden platforms, upholstered in a white, synthetic glittery fabric that had made a model catch a heel and trip earlier. And the wait turned out to be worth it: Pressly's spring line is the kind of easy-wear, barely there garments you'd all wear if you had the body and the cash for them.

They're reminiscent of a younger, uptown Carilyn Vaile—another Orange County transplant who spent much of her childhood in Palos Verdes. Pressly is in her late-20s and from Huntington Beach—though North Carolina originally. She has her own miracle fabric: cotton jersey nodel, which has a no-iron quality equal to Vaile's own ready-to-wear sensibility. Much of what she'd sketched, months before landing her breakthrough part in My Name Is Earl, seemed an uptown, sexier version of Vaile's simple sophistication. And where had she sketched it? China, Pressly said after the show, on a well-worn couch in the VIP room; it turns out the Chinese are layering. Again: first, it was layering in mass graves, which solved all kinds of space issues while raising no end of human-rights questions; now, it's in the slightly less violent but equally volatile arena of fashion. With 99 percent less genocide! Yay!

The show blurred by from the impossibly near vantage of the front row—but splitting, of course, into two distinct camps: things you could wear, and things only they could. The models danced by in a dizzying whirl of dresses with plunging necklines over bikini or bandeau tops, pausing at our end to groove before heading back. As they were nearly a generation ago, hems again were asymmetrical. And you could wear these dresses, and their similar full skirt counterparts; they'd show your good points, hide your flab. Done! There were also adorable capri-length jersey pants with deep cut-outs where the side pockets would be—you'd buy a pair in every color, from pastel pink to earthy brown. They were perfect, as were wife-beaters with dragon graphics reminiscent of Japanese-style traditional tattoo flash. They, too, were swell, and you'd probably fit into them. And everyone could appreciate the accessories, which recalled one's very young youth, had that happened, say, in the late '60s or early '70s: tiger-tooth pendants and chunky bead necklaces, hoop earrings, tall knickers-length argyle socks, and the occasional scarf. Send out a search party for the horn of fertility.

Then things got a little dicey. At the spectrum's other end were the wonderfully rendered, beautifully displayed pieces for the fortunate few: boy-cut shirts with an awesomely snug fit; short tube skirts under wide belts, some worn over leggings. (Have we learned nothing from Jessica Simpson's mistakes?) Basic miniskirts were cut equally close; they came, however, with five-point jean pockets on the butt. You'd never use 'em, but they attracted a certain extra attention to the affected area. And possibly the best garment was almost an accessory itself: a neat, tiny miniskirt in a gorgeous blue paisley silk from the same China trip. Curry finished the show, in a floor-length model cut from the same cloth: posing with Pressly on a pedestal. It was all about them, and women like them.

“It's very simple and athletic,” Knight said later, a hand on my shoulder, as he and Curry mingled. “It's made for the Adriannes and Jaimes of the world. There's not a lot of sitting down.” Judging from the response, neither one will be doing a lot of sitting down any time soon.

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