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It's the season for stepping out to parties, so the timing seems right for a book on the invitations that get us there.

Called simply "Invitations" (Clarkson Potter, $25), the book was written by Marc Friedland, a Beverly Hills, Calif., designer whose company, Creative Intelligence, produces invitations for celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Quincy Jones and Dustin Hoffman as well as for corporations and charitable organizations.

The bottom line: Be creative.

"Tradition has its time and place, but it's hard to believe that until recently, people who selected invitations and announcements for the most meaningful occasions in their lives felt obliged to follow certain social dictums, such as 'appropriate' format, paper size and color, 'correct' wording, and the way to fold the paper, insert it into the envelope and even address the envelope," Friedland writes in the introduction.

Whether the book inspires you to design your own invitations ("a favorite chintz can be used to line an envelope," he suggests) or arms you with fresh ideas when working with a stationer or printer, it definitely will get you in the mood to throw a party.

What next?

Here's something weird and wacky to watch for: bowls designed from stretchy Lycra that you throw into the washing machine instead of the dishwasher.

The concept was dreamed up by Sandy Chilewich, who co-founded the Hue hosiery company before she began designing household products. She calls her bowls "Raybowls," and the Washington Post describes the way they work like this: An expanse of nylon Lycra mesh is anchored to a steel wire frame by a simple hook and stretched taut over the edges.

"I had this idea about trying to utilize fabrics in an innovative way, to make fabrics concave. I had been intrigued for some time by the idea of replacing traditional materials like glass, wood, ceramic and plastic with fabric," Ms. Chilewich told the Post.

Head games

When fashion designers unveil their new collections in New York, Paris, London and Milan, it's not just the clothes that spectators are looking at. It's also the hair. That's why companies such as Clairol attend the shows -- to forecast upcoming hair color and styling trends.

When American designers unveiled their spring collections earlier this month in New York, Clairol noted the following looks to watch for next year:

Dark hair: Models Chandra North, Shalom Harlow and Michelle Hicks led the way with shine-infused brown shades including bay, mahogany and chestnut. Even blonds were more subdued than usual, in shades of honey, wheat or golden blond.

Wave-rave: Air-dried, wavy hair reminiscent of Botticelli's "Venus" dominated the European and American runways. In New York, wavy curls and tendrils were spotted on models at Carolina Herrera, Christian Dior and Badgley Mischka.

Long hair: It showed up on virtually every runway, with styles ranging from straight and side-parted to loose and not parted.

Headbands: That's right, they're back. Designer Marc Jacobs was a big fan of the look during the recent run of shows, using the schoolgirl-style headband to slick back models' hair.

Speaking of slick . . . hair that looks as if it's in need of a good shampoo also was spotted on the New York runways. The look calls for hair that is lifted at the roots and tousled at the ends.

Neckwear news

Actress Glenn Close and actors Ted Danson and Paul Newman have added another talent to their resumes -- designing ties. It's all part of a new tie collection involving a partnership between JCPenney, the Christopher Reeve Foundation and Stonehenge Ltd., a New York neckwear manufacturer.

The collection, called Christopher Reeve Neckwear, is inspired by drawings donated by celebrity friends of Reeve as well as by individuals living with spinal cord injury.

Some proceeds from sales will benefit the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which raises money to develop treatments and, ultimately, a cure for spinal cord injury paralysis. Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down in a fall from a horse three years ago.

The new neckwear collection debuts this month and is available at JCPenney.

And finally . . .

"The way our features are flung together is just an accident. I mean, we all have two eyes, a nose and a mouth. They're just arranged differently."
-- Elizabeth Taylor