August 08, 1983 12:00 PM

Would you please explain to me,” marvels one fashion-watcher, “why every woman in Beverly Hills is running around with a drooping sweatshirt hanging off of one shoulder?”

Look no farther than Hollywood. Paramount’s sizzling Flashdance is popularizing the bare sexy look that actually originated in dance studios. Although clothing manufacturers got wind of the trend at least three years ago, and Goldie Hawn wore cutout sweats in last year’s Best Friends, the success of Flashdance has catapulted the calculatedly sloppy look affected by actress Jennifer Beals into the closets of the chicest dressers—from Brooke Shields and Catherine Deneuve to Linda Ronstadt.

Ever since Cecil B. De Mille commissioned elaborate wardrobes for his epics, to be sure, consumers have taken cues from movies—right up through such fashion-influencing films of the past decade as Annie Hall, Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Urban Cowboy and Chariots of Fire. Buyers are now snapping up Flashdance-inspired cut-to-order or ready-to-wear styles faster than stores can stock them. Michel Bittan of Guess? Knit Activewear (yes, that’s its name) calls the loose cutout look “the hottest T-shirt on the market.” Observes Jeff Stein, co-owner of the trendy Camp Beverly Hills boutique: “I think the look will be strong for some time because it gives people a way to look different while all looking the same.”

C.P. Shades of San Francisco provided the uncut sweats for Flashdance; scissors-wielding cast and crew members did the rest. Jumping on the bandwagon are such manufacturers as Guess? Knit Activewear ($6 million in sales this year and a projected $10 million in 1984), St. Barths (neon colors, uneven hems, outside seams) and O’Tokyo (hottest item: a boat-neck, midriff-baring top). The ripped T’s and slouchy sweats will still be here this fall. Carole Little is introducing a line of 13 Flashdance-inspired pieces for Saint-Tropez West in burnt orange, fuschia and plum. Price range: $30 to $95. The Flashdance phenomenon, insists Kenneth Karlstein, general merchandising manager for Gap Stores Inc., “is no flash in the pan.”

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