When store buyers sit down with a designer to place a season's order, they usually start the same place most women do: with a jacket.
A jacket is a wardrobe's starting point, its backbone, the one piece around which everything else is built. And this season, it's also a fashion star.
With softer lines and more natural shoulders, the latest jackets are light years from the severely tailored, turbo-padded power looks of autumns past. But the real news is length. From just brushing the fingertips to skimming almost to the knees, the long jacket is fall's most directional look.
And, some say, its most flattering. By gliding smoothly past the hips, a longer jacket advances the illusion of a leaner, more narrow line. Depending on what you'd like to show off (and what you'd rather camouflage), a longer jacket can visually sleeken lumpy hips, create the illusion of a narrow waist, even play up shapely legs.
Worn over trousers, the jackets have a slouchy nonchalance. A leggy skirt only a few inches are meant to show beneath the jacket's hem affords a chic executive look.
At the sportier end of the spectrum, any number of designers not xTC to mention myriad fast-fashion stores and catalogs offer some version of the generously scaled jacket dubbed the "boyfriend" blazer. Charlotte Neuville coined the term a year ago. Her new-this-season blazers come in graphic, magnified black-and-white checks and stripes. But in most collections, solid colors prevail.
The jacket dress (essentially an abbreviated coatdress) endorsed by Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors and several others has even simpler requirements. All that's needed are good legs and a pair of opaque tights.
In short, there's a long jacket for everyone.