For fall, the rules have changed a little things fit, for instance A SELECT FEW

September 22, 1994|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Sun Fashion Editor

~TC The smartest women have the worst time shopping the new fashion season. They're the ones who know what works for them. They know the yo-yo movement of hemlines is a way of stringing fashion victims along, but they also know that a few hot new purchases will give them fashion superiority.

We list fall's top 10 elements. No need to try them all at once.

Try fit: No more hiding under over-size layers. That only leads to sloppy posture. The overall line in jackets, suits and dresses is close to the body. Not tight or cinched, mind you, but structured with a hint of waist and a curve to the hips. The shoulder is defined and sleeves are set higher to elongate and slenderize the arm.

That's all part of the return to glamour, which we are told we need. Nobody really needs to look like Marlene Dietrich in full drag, but a few touches of '40s tailoring make for a change. For evening, fit moves even closer, with bias-cut silk sheaths and slips that tell all -- just like Hollywood.

Try Color: Strong color kicks in now as a relief from neutrals and black. That may mean something as tart as neon lime and lemon or as sweet as candy and ice cream tints. Pinks and oranges, often appearing together, are the hots. If that sounds like too much of a wallop, think of color accents -- anything goes with black. And don't forget the non-colors such as grays and browns.

Try plaid: Plaids pop up periodically because they are an inherently positive pattern.

We associate them with fling, and that's the up-tempo message. A plaid jacket or suit, to do right, requires perfect matching and detail, not to mention a slim wearer. The pleated plaid mini-kilt is today's hottest "item" -- that's fashion talk for fad. It's cute on kids. Plaid vests, scarves, bags, hats and even leggings have plenty of zip at safer doses.

Try fuzzy: This is the year of the goat -- and the rabbit and the faux. Mohair leads the hairy list and is out there in soft wrap coats, tube dresses, big knits, cropped sweaters and cocktail dresses. A little goes a long way and a fluffy muffler could do the entire fashion trick. Ditto for angora. Animal hair tends to itch, which is a good reason to turn to faux fuzzies. They look best trimming collars, cuffs, hoods and hems. And gloves with a furry cuff can fluff up many outfits.

Try shine: Fabrications that look chemically induced are correct now. On the designer level, that means pure silks that are treated with glaze, neoprene cocktail dresses or leathers made to resemble plastic. On a practical level, that means vinyl jackets and skirts, patent leather trims, or glossy stretch separates that scream man-made.

Try A-line: It's not your mother's old standby, but a very short and very young A-line. If that doesn't sound right, leave it be. The shape can be seen in flirty slip dresses, wooly jumpers and skirts that barely cover the essentials. A-line worn longer looks dowdy, like Grandma's.

Try heels: Dressing up means just that, heels need to go higher. Do spikes if you can, or the lower shaped heel with a broader base if you can't. Fall's refined tailoring and sleeker lines need to be launched on a lighter base. Leave the serious soles for trekking.

Try red lips: What will they think of next? Red lipstick, and it's as close as your nearest drugstore or cosmetics counter. You may be old enough to remember when lipsticks came in red only, but in between there have been pinks, frosteds, whites, blacks and most recently all those smudgy browns. A glossy crimson mouth now says you are serious about fashion.

Try school: Designers dress schoolgirls in mini-jumpers, mini-pleated skirts, prep school blazers, cheerleader skirts and even pompons. Women whose pompons are less than perky should avoid the mini anythings. Pleated skirts or clean-lined jumpers, however, can freshen a wardrobe.

Try short: Will we ever have done with skirt lengths? Doesn't every woman already own at least two of every variable? Well, this year's short is movable or playful or A-line, as opposed to the old fanny-huggers. Skirts pleat, drape, swirl or flare at the hem, which designers and stylists show way up high on the thigh. Real clothes are shipped longer, which ought to tell us something.

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