April 03, 1978 12:00 PM

Sock it to us, Spring! Wafting in on equinoctial zephyrs is the silliest, most wonderful fashion fad in years. It’s little-girl party socks—those ’30s and ’40s anklets—and they’re turning up coast to coast in ads and department store windows and being worn by models and Hollywood trend setters.

“We can’t get enough of them,” reports Donald Pliner, owner of Beverly Hills’ Right Bank Clothing Co. Actress Anne Turkel (Richard Harris’ wife) now coordinates all her clothes to matching ankle socks. Cher bought dozens in every color and style. Only slightly less profligate are singer Donna Summer, Lynda (Wonder Woman) Carter, Sara Dylan, Marisa Berenson and Linda Ronstadt.

It is hard to describe the ankle sock as a thing of beauty. Never mind. Lady-about-town Michelle Phillips wears them. Helen Reddy recently thrilled a dress-up party by combining white ankle socks with Mary Janes (unpolished, of course; you parochial school alumnae will understand). There’s even a dispute brewing on the right way to turn the socks down. Raquel Welch, for instance, favors the double roll rather than the single.

No fashion magazine can (wants to?) claim credit for dictating the anklet apotheosis. It’s another street look dreamed up by hardy young avant-gardists in Manhattan and Left Bank Paris. For the past several seasons they have endured the scorn of the un-appreciative. “People do stare,” admits New York editor Pamela Alt-man, who wears her 100 pairs of sockettes with both flats and low heels. She isn’t ecstatic that the world is now catching up to her tastes: “It takes away from my individuality.”

White ankle socks have, of course, been available at Woolworth’s for over 50 years (sales are 1,900,000 pairs a year). But now the fad is hitting the big department stores—right in the cash register. In New York, anklets account for 60 percent of Bloomingdale’s sock sales. On the West Coast, I. Magnin sold out their $2.50 lace-trimmed pastel socks, while the Broadway stores peddled 2,400 pairs in a cold and wet January.

As the great anklet revival gained momentum, New York models in search of the perfect sock discovered Narcissa, a small, out-of-the-way shop in Manhattan’s East 60s. It is run by Jenne Maag, 28, and Lisa Gaffney, 27, who began wearing ankle socks in 1974. Their inspiration came suddenly as they were studying pictures of old movie stars. “There was Marlene Dietrich,” Jenne recalls, “at a Ferris wheel in Hollywood, wearing khaki shorts, huarache sandals and white ankle socks.” Eureka!

Being anklet pioneers was a lonely business, the young women found. “One day,” Lisa says, “we walked over to Seventh Avenue to see a manufacturer. We were wearing flowered print dresses, our white socks and old ladies’ sandals from Woolworth’s. A guy loading trucks asked us if we were members of some religious cult.”

It’s called fashion. Lisa and Jenne now offer hand-dyed numbers in shades of mauve, banana, caramel, celery and peach for $3 plain, $5 with lace or hand-crocheted trim. The two revolutionaries are busy hatching their next plot—ankle socks for men. “It hasn’t been successful yet,” says Jenne. “But it will be. Just wait and see.”

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