FANCY PANTS; GET A LEG UP ON THE LATEST ANKLE ACTION.

Byline: Barbara De Witt Fashion Editor

Geek chic is dead.

Yes, fashion friends, while some of us were pressing the pleats in our khakis, designers were embroidering daisies on capri pants. Sewing feathers on jeans. And even strips of velvet on khaki clamdiggers.

The crafty craze caught us by the seat of our pants last summer with a band or two of ribbon sewn around the edge of jeans that brought attention to ankle bracelets and strappy sandals. By December we were knee-deep in velvet and sari silk trims. Even paisley and pailettes.

And the ankle action isn't over.

Hitting the stores as we speak are spandex pants, bleached and torn denim jeans and wool trousers sprouting flowers, glistening with silvery studs and glittering with strips of sequins.

Embellished pants, once the anti-fashion uniform of the hippie era, have been interpreted by European designers like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli, elevated to high fashion and paired with even higher heels.

Here in L.A., local designers such as William B have put their own spin on it with beaded fringe, feathers and flowers for mainstream stores such as Nordstrom, while fashion-forward boutiques including Bebe are offering jeans adorned with everything from faux zebra fur to giant leather flowers.

More conservative stores such as Ames, also have given decorative pants validation. Ames' fashion consultant Toby Couser offers her casually chic clientele dressy pants for disco divas. Hanging next to career suits are pants with denim in front, spandex in the back and a row of silver studs that run down the leg like a tuxedo stripe ... which happens to be more flattering than the ankle trim, she confides.

Meanwhile, teen destinations such as Wet Seal are selling jeans with ribbons around the ankle and butterfly and rose appliques on the pockets, as well as designs with peacock feather ties at the waist.

Over at the Gap are wool pants embroidered with roses, and at Miller's Outpost are nylon pants with embroidered dragons.

Dragons?

``Forget flowers. Dragons are the next big trend because it's the year of the dragon,'' says Thousand Oaks store manager Ackley Padilla.

DECORATE AND LOOK GREAT

Overwhelmed? Can't find pants that fit your personality or match your shoes and purse?

Be a purist and design your own. Women who don't know a bobbin from a bobby pin are flocking to fabric stores for ribbons and other decorative trims, reports Rosanne Sterr, manager of Joann's Fabric and Craft store in Woodland Hills. The most-often-asked question: How much ribbon do I need for the bottom of my pants?

You'll need 1 1/8 yards of ribbon or trim to circle both legs, and it can be ironed in place with a product called Stitch Witchery. The product, which is sold like tape and placed between the pants and the ribbon, also works for pre-embroidered appliques.



If you're using strips of fabric to decorate your pant legs, you'll need 1/8 of a yard (for both legs). Adding Capri Cavalli sequins? Sterr recommends buying them by the yard and then glueing them in place with a product called Jewel-It.



Other sources for ribbon and trim are Michael's craft stores, booths along the Venice Boardwalk and the downtown L.A. garment district.

- Barbara De Witt

CAPTION(S):

7 photos, box

Photo: (1 -- color) On the cover: Art-project pants; Designers catch the craft craze, embellishing jeans and trousers. Long-stemmed daisies bloom on slim stretch pants, $138, from Cachet at The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks.

Photos by Phil McCarten/Staff Photographer

(2 -- color) Levi's jeans get ripped up the seams, then pulled together with beads, fringe and floral appliques, $198, at Cachet.

(3 -- color) Bebe's faded jeans have roses sparkling with sequins on the front and back, $148, from Bebe.

(4 -- color) Zebra stripes run wild on Levi's, $138, at Bebe at The Oaks mall, Thousand Oaks.

(5 -- color) Leggy looks for spring include tuxedo stripes of floral fabric by Levi's, $44; sari-trimmed khaki capris by Union Bay, $48; and flower-appliqued jeans by Union Bay, $58; all from Wet Seal at The Oaks.

(6 -- color) Disco days are back with these two-tone pants trimmed with silver discs, $128, at Ames at The Oaks mall.

(7 -- color) Union Bay's newest jeans are appliqued with butterflies and flowers, $58, from Wet Seal.

Box: Decorate - and look great (see text)

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