There's nothing new under the sun - and the styles for fall 2001 prove it. The racks in local stores teem with tradition: tweeds, herringbone, and houndstooth patterns, cardigans, pullovers, and jackets, and plaid. That venerable American institution, denim, is hotter then ever, even appearing in some business clothes. Leather has cropped up in the form of trims and entire garments. In footwear, boots rule. It's all classic, all the time.
“The No. 1 difference this year? Lots of sweater-coats and long cardigans, knee-length and even longer,” said designer Sigrid Olsen, whose line of elegant clothes sells at local department stores. “That creates a whole new silhouette that our eyes are getting used to, longer than what we've seen. It's not that things are oversized - the armhole is still the same.
“It's a return to updated classics, but classics that don't look conservative,” Ms. Olsen said. “They're simpler, more timeless shapes without all the sequins and embellishments.”
Local retailers say Toledo trends echo what's happening on the national scene..
“Leather outerwear and apparel is doing extremely well right now,” said Rick King, manager of women's apparel at the JCPenney store in the Franklin Park Mall. “Sweater coats have been huge. Suede also is a big hitter for us this year.”
Other popular items at his store include sweaters of all types, colored jeans, plus longer casual skirts, Mr. King said
As for sweaters, Laura Good, merchandise manager at Dillard's in Franklin Park Mall, said younger women particularly like the long belted sweaters.
“In the juniors, the dusters, we just can't keep 'em in,” Ms. Good said.
One of the hottest patterns for fall is houndstooth. Upscale accessory maker Coach uses the classic black and white version for handbags and shoes of its fall/winter line. Design houses that have used it include Ralph Lauren, Harve Benard, and Liz Claiborne; Talbots is among the specialty retailers touting 'tooth.
Ms. Good said houndstooth, plaids, and pinstripes are part of a larger trend toward menswear-inspired fashions. Major colors include black, white, browns, and camel.
So how does one incorporate the new styles into an old wardrobe? That might be easier than expected. The fabrics may have changed, but the basic shape has not (with the exception of the aforementioned long sweaters and dusters.) Most garments have become more fitted in the last couple of years, making it easy to pair many neutral-colored pieces with plaids and patterns.
“It's pretty easy to make your wardrobe look new - refresh it with a few new things,” Ms. Olsen said. “Maybe this year it's a leather skirt. Wear that with a chunky hand-knit sweater. It's really just mixing things up, putting a longer silhouette with the same pants as last year.
“The new boots are incredible for fall. Whether ankle boots or knee high boots - they're the accent for these silhouettes. All those accessories can make something look new as well.”Why this return to the classics rather than an embrace of futuristic shapes and fabrics? Chris Gorton, spokeswoman for Jacobson's, has a few theories.
“We're coming out of a time when things were more relaxed,” Ms. Gorton said. “We're moving to where we want to be more in control. Maybe we want to feel more together. That's reflected in fashion as more classic, a return to times when things were in place.”
America's current love affair with history may also play into it.
“It's about heritage, too,” Ms. Gorton said. “We want to have a feeling of being connected to a heritage and classics relate to that as well: tweeds, houndstooth, sweaters. We all want to feel connected, to have history and roots, a heritage, those kinds of things.”
Gloria Siegler, spokeswoman for Elder-Beerman, offered further analysis.
“We're finding that comfort and nostalgia are important trends, Ms. Siegler said. “It's sort of a Baby Boomer thing. As the Baby Boomers grow older, they like things that remind them of being young.”
The current financial times play a role, too. “Partly because of the economy, people want to buy looks that won't date themselves quickly, but endure,” Ms. Siegler said. “Anything that is really trendy is out.”
Nevertheless, trends exist even within the classic realm.
“Knitwear is making a huge resurgence,” Ms. Olsen noted.
She added that leather and suede, the current darlings of designers, may have saturated the marketplace by the time warm weather rolls around again, “so maybe it will taper off.”