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Has Midas been to the mall? It looks like the mythical guy has laid hands on everything from sweaters and skirts to shoes and purses. Not since miners set up shop in California in 1849 has gold been so precious a metal.

From sportswear to accessories, the fashion world has entered a golden age. Lurex sparkles in sweaters, gilded beads shine on dresses and blouses. Golden stitching and splashes of metallic paint give an artistic look to jeans and halters. Then there are the gold leather jeans and miniskirts often accented with - what else - golden chain belts.The metal of Midas is everywhere, and the trend shows the strength to continue. By spring, retailers predict, there will be an even bigger glitz blitz when embroidered floral dresses and metallic sandals hit the stores.

Call it a turnabout from minimalistic styles and outfits stripped of accessories, the trend in the '90s. Weary of somber colors and plain silhouettes, women are hungry for splashy, flashy clothes. And it doesn't get much flashier than gold.

Metallics started moving to the forefront last year. The futuristic glint of silver captured the imagination of apparel manufacturers and symbolized Y2K. Now as 2001 approaches, the stylish odyssey continues with gold - and to a lesser extent, copper, bronze and pewter.

You still can find silver if you want it.

Silver hasn't disappeared, says Christina Kerford, Macy's fashion and special events director. But who needs more silver ball gowns, silver shirts or stilettos? Gold gives incentive to shop. It hasn't been around for ages. And even if you had some of the gold stuff from the '80s, the look would be dated.

Eighties materials were heavy and stiff, and almost everything had exaggerated shoulder padding. Modern styles are molded to natural body contours - many fit like a second skin. The fabrics are soft, supple and easy-care - many of the microfibers are washable. And the design attitude is lighthearted and casual. Think gold leather pants, midriff-baring mesh tops, flashy stilettos. Think chunky golden sweaters and gleaming lug-soled boots.

Metallics, once considered appropriate only for evening wear, are turning into the wear-everywhere, do-everything neutrals. But don't forget good taste.

Retailers say styles such as Lurex turtlenecks or understated golden shirts in matte finishes are fine for day. Low-cut tops in clingy satin, revealing mesh or splashy sequins are not. A tailored, modestly fitting suit in gold leather can go to a luncheon - maybe even church. A gold satin gown or form-fitting mini has more limitations.

If you have doubts about any outfit, it's best to be conservative and tone things down.

Different intensities and textures can lessen impact. Nubby materials such as tweed make a good counterpoint to metallics. Matte finishes combine with mesh. Gold brocade works well with velvet.

And if gold doesn't flatter your complexion, just keep the color away from your face. A black velvet top with a metallic skirt could be the answer.

Or mix metals to accent your skin tones.

Still hesitant? Stake your claim to a few accessories and avoid accumulating a mother lode of metal or spending big bucks on a designer outfit. Small touches such as boots, shoes, chain belts, hoop earrings, scarves and bangle bracelets can reflect the trend and brighten your wardrobe.

And, best of all, you won't need a gold mine to buy them.


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