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Published: Sunday, 10/12/2008

This season's coats come in a variety in fabrics and silhouettes

BY LAMONT JONES
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
The swing coat is one of fall s new silhouettes. The swing coat is one of fall s new silhouettes.
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The mercury's dropping, and it's time to get ready for another coat season.

While you may be able to make do with a windbreaker or some other light jacket for a little while longer, it might be wise to dig overcoats out of storage and to start looking for something new, too.

Men and women eager to update their wardrobes with a new style or two will find plenty of interesting looks this fall. Military influences such as epaulets and peacoat styles are strong in men's outerwear, while women's designs are characterized by unusual silhouettes, eye-catching colors and dramatic prints.

Regardless of style, designers and manufacturers were intentional about cutting their coats from fabrics that are lightweight but still warm.

'Overall, we're seeing newness in color, shapes and fabrications,' said Heather Hannan, public relations manager for the central region of Macy's. 'Plaid, tweed, and houndstooth patterns make a statement in outerwear this season. Silhouettes and shapes range from slim-fit coats to flowy capes. And fabrications go from sleek leather to warm wools. It's all about finding the style that fits your lifestyle and fashion needs this season.'

Women's coat selections are especially varied, with elements borrowed from the '40s and '50s and designers playing with proportions for silhouettes of intriguing shapes: cocoons, bubbles, bells, lanterns. Some coats feature lace overlays and other luxe elegant touches; others are dramatic in strong, colorful prints.

'Dynamic print coats are for those people who want to get noticed and don't we all?' said Ms. Hannan. 'There are so many colors and patterns to choose from that it's like an arts festival and fashion show rolled into one. The key to wearing a bold print like this is to keep the rest of your outfit simple.'

The trench, a perennial favorite for men and women, returns in traditional neutrals, new colors and prints, and fabrics ranging from tech and khaki to leather and suede. Some are cropped for a more modern, trendy look, and many come with detachable linings that can be taken out for milder days and reattached on colder ones.

With interesting design features and its basic belt-over-buttons look, the trench 'is the most flattering cut for all body types, a timeless design classic that goes with everything,' said Ms. Hannan.

Leather and suede coats show stunning versatility patchwork has returned puffer coats move from frumpy to fashion-forward, capes are updated in super-chic styles, and long-lasting shearlings return in handsome cuts for men and women.

Larry Altman said the shearling, leather and wool-cashmere men's topcoats arriving this month at L.S. Altman in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., reflect the trend in comfortable, durable fabrics and special features.

'In terms of details, there's some interest in epaulets on the shoulders,' he said. 'Not a severe military look, but just a little detail. There are some different pocket treatments.'

'Outerwear has gotten lighter in weight over time. People like to be able to leave on their coats without having to carry them when they're indoors. That's one reason shearlings are so popular they're warm but not heavy.'

While bargain-hunting makes good sense, especially in the sagging economy, coat shoppers going the retail route should make sure they don't sacrifice quality in the process.

'There are no free lunches,' said Mr. Altman. 'Unless you're looking for a throwaway coat, you're going to get what you pay for or pay for what you get.'

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

LaMont Jones is fashion editor of the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: ljones@post-gazette.com.



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