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Published: Sunday, 9/4/2005

The shape of fall fashion

BY LAMONT JONES
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

There are seasons when the fashion outlook for women hinges on a key color.

And then there are seasons when it s all about a dominant print, some bygone era, or an overarching theme dictated by historic events.

But this fall and winter, women s fashion is best defined by silhouette. Silhouette, in fashion, is simply the outline of a look as created by the design and construction of apparel. It s the unmistakable shape of an ensemble that reveals at a glance what a look is all about.

And this season, silhouettes abound.

The mandate is more, do what s right for you, your lifestyle, your closet, said Tom Julian, a fashion trend analyst with New York-based Fallon Worldwide. More and more designers talk about the ability of women to take one part and add another part, sometimes another designer look or specialty label, and that is what the modern woman does!

When women exercise their prerogative to mix and match varied and versatile pieces, interesting silhouettes invariably follow.

For fall, military looks are heralded by jackets and coats with infantry-inspired detailing and construction.

Borrow-from-the-boys looks feature man-inspired suitings in pinstripe, houndstooth, and tweed with decidedly feminine cuts and embellishments and boyish-made-girly accessories such as animal-print fedoras and gem-colored velvet newsboy caps.

On the softer side, waist-defining hourglass skirt suits recall the 30s, shearling jackets over delicate dresses marry the rugged and romantic, and full skirts peeking from under skinny overcoats slim the torso before bottoming out with trumpet-y flare.

Cowboy country

Prairie skirts and cowboy boots are unmistakably Western, ultra-dramatic blouses over tulip or bubble skirts cut a dramatic silver-screen silhouette, and short cocktail dresses with poufy skirts take evening in a fresh, exciting direction.

The fashion influences, Mr. Julian added, are broad and wide, modern and cool, classic and eclectic at the same time. A bit of opposites attracting but also interacting.

The plethora of dramatic silhouettes can be traced to the luxurious fabrics that define so many collections, Mr. Julian said. Brocades, tapestries, jacquards, and embossed fabrics lend themselves to tailoring and embellishment.

And as these and other fabrics interact in the hands of designers, a common result is short over long, slim over voluminous and a great deal of unexpected velvet and denim, tweed and crepe, cord and cashmere.

The trend is evident just about everywhere, at all price levels, from Dress Barn to Saks Fifth Avenue.

Fur pieces, embellished denim jeans, tailored skirts, leopard prints, tweeds, cocktail suits and dresses, fun belts and sweater sets with shawl collars, leather closures, and hip ruffles make interesting combinations in the fall mix at Ruth Young by Linda Bucci in Pittsburgh.

Fabrics are always soft, said owner Linda Bucci, even in menswear-inspired looks such as a gray pinstripe pantsuit with a lavender silk shirt and matching necktie by Basler.

It goes from being very romantic and very feminine to also being feminine but with man tailoring, said Ms. Bucci. There are some wonderful men s tailored suits, but with a feminine look.

Menswear also strongly influenced women s pants this season, along with colorful printed corduroy tops and bottoms and argyle sweaters dolled up with beads and sequins.

We re seeing incredible fashion for women, said Veronica Valladares, a spokeswoman for Dress Barn. I think it s great. It s about time. I know we ve been going in this direction for a while, but the layperson, it takes them a while to realize that they have all these options. Our theory is, it s all about choice.

For the guys

Relax, fellows.

And do it in style.

There s a lot of sartorial finery to choose from this fall and winter, the kind of dapper duds that look more dressed up but are comfortable and uncomplicated.

Suits return to the office in a continuation of the trend away from dressing down. They re incorporating more color, and narrower neckties are showing up. The trend toward dressing up is still going on, noted Joseph De Acetis, fashion director for Playboy magazine. Suit sales are going up among all ages. The return to elegance is still on the rise.

The polished look spills over into everyday clothes, which at the same time retain a workmanlike feel such as tooling on a shearling jacket or artistic details on jeans. Looks are well-suited for men who are naturally confident and intentional about their style statements.

Corduroy is big in jackets, shirts, and pants. Earth tones are a mainstay, and there s a profusion of bright color in pants, thanks to Nautica and other labels. Brands such as 7 For All Mankind offer styles in winter white.

Chocolate brown and shades of gray are key colors, the latter shown a lot with lavender.

Denim, man s best fashion friend, continues to evolve. It s showing up in more pulled-together ensembles such as jean jackets or denim pants with a blazer, vest and T-shirt.

Argyle is back in new colors, most notably in V-neck sweaters and vests. Big, chunky cable-knit pullover sweaters in warm but not itchy wool blends come in bold prints, button vests dress down with jeans or up with a blazer, and zip-front sweaters become layering pieces with novelty tees, print shirts, belted overcoats and leather jackets.

Topping it off

Headwear shows unusual variety in shape, fabric, and color, adding debonair dash to looks casual or dressy. Fedoras, skullcaps, bucket and cowboy hats, bowlers, newsboys, and Kangol-style lids are just some of the styles crafted by brands such as Dorfman-Pacific, Orit Parente, and Bailey of Hollywood.

Patricia Underwood, known for millinery masterpieces for women, launched a colorful line for guys that includes cossack fur hats, cashmere roll caps, and leather fedoras.

The younger, trend-savvy male in particular is purchasing fashionable, even cutting-edge designs, and he s not afraid of color, said Casey Bush, director of the Headwear Information Bureau, a New York-based industry trade group.

Colorful velvet blazers, tailored leather motorcycle jackets, fur-trimmed overcoats, colorful jacket linings, interesting scarves, and big leather weekend bags jazz up the menswear scene on into winter.

All of the options should allow any man to be in the driver s seat when it comes to pulling together a wardrobe for the season.

Overall, it s about underlying confidence in your own personal, individual style, said Mr. De Acetis. It s taking what s out there and adding your personal style to it and looking smart.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. LaMont Jone is fashion editor of the Post-Gazette.



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