Better fabrics transcend seasons


August 01, 1991|By Holly Selby

Oh no, not again. It's the beginning of one of those nasty, in-between times during which you're not sure what the season is -- let alone what to wear.

Should you wear the short, black linen skirt with the white jacket that screams "summer" or rush out and buy a long-sleeved, nubbly jacket in autumnal burnt orange?

How can you possibly guess right when the store windows are all filled with fall fashions and it's still 90 degrees outside?

Don't despair. Clothing for these peculiar, in-between times -- dubbed "transition" by the fashion world -- is becoming easier to find and easier to wear.

Transition garments used to be available in stores for just a few weeks in a limited number of styles. But in the last few years, the clothing industry has responded to a consumer demand for clothes that will work for more than one season and one climate -- and has produced a wider selection.

"More and more manufacturers are realizing that people don't want to wear the heavy weights [fabric] all the time," says Baltimore retailer Michael Miller of Miller Brothers. "In our area there's a lot of hot weather all year 'round."

A wider variety of between-season clothing can also be traced to the development of better fabrics, says buyer Nancy Powell of Jos. A Bank Clothiers. These days, "there are rayon blends, blended wools and all kinds of silks that can be worn eight to 10 months of the year."

But she hastens to add: "It's not the rayon that our mothers knew." In recent years, these fabrics have been improved and now "have a great feel to them and can really carry you through many seasons," she says.

Better quality has meant growing acceptance of these lighter-weight fabrics in the fashion world. For example, Donna Karan's DKNY fall collection offers versatile stretch crepe jackets that can be worn with stirrup pants or jeans as well as skirts.

"The collection as a whole can be worn in mix and match now through spring, explains Marina Luri, director of publicity for DKNY. "The concept is options and building your wardrobe."

In the Nicole Miller line, "nothing's heavy," says Bud Konheim, president of Nicole Miller, Ltd. Instead of heavy tweed, there are Lycras, feather-weight wools, rayons and blends.

The combination of unpredictable weather and nearly universal air conditioning and heating has made very light fabrics and very heavy fabrics unsuitable for many areas of life, he says. Consequently, year-round fabrics produce "clothes with some sensitivity to your lifestyle."

And that's certainly good news if you're struggling with the zTC what-season-is-it/what-to-wear dilemma. But what if you already own a nice summer wardrobe and you don't want to buy a whole new wardrobe for fall?

Again, don't panic. If you're in the process of changing your wardrobe from summer to fall, begin by thinking color -- and thinking mix and match. Transition is a time during which your separates become invaluable.

This season, more than many others, fall colors are not limited to the traditional autumnal tones of spices, eggplant, and dark neutrals. The vivid fuchsias and jewel tones that are popular this summer still will be in style.

To give outfits a fall look, team summery items you already have with darker colored garments, suggests Ms. Powell.

For example, instead of wearing your pale green summer jacket with the cream skirt, try pairing it with a skirt or pants in a deeper shade of green. Or take the cream skirt and top it off with a dark green or rich brown jacket.

If you're tired of your summer wardrobe and want to invest in something new, there are plenty of outfits in lightweight fabrics available in area stores. Ann Taylor is carrying red-and-black cropped jackets and skirts in cotton-rayon blends or 100 percent rayon, navy jackets with tartan piping and matching tartan skirts. Or, watch for cotton knit jackets and skirts in dark green and oatmeal from the Hunt Club Collection at J. C. Penney.

Then look for ways to work such items into your existing wardrobe. For example, a dark green above-the-knee cotton knit skirt teamed with a yellow T-shirt makes a summery outfit. The same dark green skirt with a burnt orange or a deep gold shirt is suitable for fall, says Jan Flora, publicity coordinator of Baltimore-Washington area J. C. Penneys.

And at Miller Brothers, there are long riding jackets and short straightskirts made of what designer Eleanor Brenner calls "cool wool" -- a blend of polyester and wool, says Mr. Miller.

While shopping, or while trying to put together outfits of your own this season, don't think of transition clothing as clothes to wear until the end of fall. Think of it as "clothing you can start to wear now and wear right through winter," says Peggy Kaufman, senior vice president of Ann Taylor. Unlike summer fabrics, "the fabrics should have a substantial feel to them, yet they still


Easing into autumn

If you're wondering about how to ease your way from summer to fall -- and still look great, here are some suggestions on how to go about it, from Jan Flora, publicity director of J. C. Penney:

* Beware of accessories that scream "summer" such as shell-motif jewelry, straw handbags, tropical prints.

* Be careful about wearing very summery shoes such as open-toe sandals or sandals that lace up. And don't wear white shoes.

* Make the most of your separates. Try pairing darker colored jackets with skirts or pants in fall colors. Or, wear a brightly colored summer jacket over a black T-shirt dress.

* Switch from light-colored legs to darker hosiery.

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