Couture du Jour – January 31, 2006

By Sarah Cohan

Lara Miller doesn’t believe a piece of clothing should be worn in just one way. She wants it to be worn in any way possible, and she demonstrates this philosophy in her spring/summer 2006 line. The Chicago-based designer uses what she calls “stylized geometric patterns of various indigenous Mexican textiles” as her inspiration for this upcoming line, but I believe that she is more Greek-influenced.

Jersey knit mixed with bamboo blends that complement each other nicely rule the runway for her. The basic staples of the season are a rayon jersey tank top with four long pieces of fabric that can be wrapped multiple ways. This style is also available in a rayon jersey dress in navy, red, white, and black.

Miller learned her craftsmanship at the Art Institute of Chicago as an intern for Laurenceleste and Cynthia Ashby. It’s clear that she picked up Ashby’s natural styles and projected them onto her own line, mixing them with modern cuts and fabrics. Miller began her own career designing costumes for local dance companies, and it is clear that the movement of the body plays an important role in her choice of cuts and fabrics.

Last summer, Miller brought us frills and pastel colors, but, this spring, she’s all about flat tones and simple cuts. Her bio on (the website for the Bucktown store that showcases local designers) describes her as a designer who “promotes the prowess and creativity of each woman who slips into one of her transmutable garments.” She accomplishes this with her Flip collection that allows shirts and pants to be interchangeable.

This season, one item on her list cannot be flipped, and that is the culotte. I hoped that after their demise, no one would attempt to resurrect this awful invention, but Miller is unafraid to do it. I suppose its only natural that after last year’s rise of the gaucho pant, embracing the culotte is the next step. Luckily, Miller manages to revive it with a sexy, feminine flair.

Miller’s culottes are made out of yards of material. They are easily mistakable for a skirt and fall nicely just below the knee. Constructed in silk charmeuse and available in emerald green, silver, and black, they are a vast improvement from the culottes of the ’90s, nicely shaping the feminine figure. (At the same time, this does not mean that I will be running out and buying a pair anytime soon.)

The bamboo material that she works with fits nicely with the rayon jersey (rayon seeming to be her choice fabric of the season). It hugs the body nicely, with a touch of snugness that adds some sexiness to a subtle outfit. Her bamboo sweaters are constructed in odd shapes, with large sleeve openings and numerous ties. These sweaters mesh nicely with the rest of the line, accomplishing a look that can be worn to the downtown office or for a day in the park.

Miller’s goal “is to keep fashion fun by creating sophisticated clothing that allows women to feel comfortable at work or at play.” Miller continues to achieve these goals with her current line. Both the fabric and the style have a young, playful, and sexy theme that would fit effortlessly in any woman’s closet. You can check her stuff out in Chicago at p.45 and Beta Boutique.