All Wrapped Up

Winter has hit hard -- but in this season's stylish outerwear, you can laugh at the cold and look good doing it.

Focus On Fashion

December 21, 2003|By Elizabeth Large

It's time to check your coat. Not to mention your boots, scarves, hats and gloves.

Weather forecasters are predicting a colder and wetter than normal next couple of months, which doesn't sound good when you think about last winter. You're going to need outerwear that keeps you warm, in great looking styles that lift your spirits.

If you're the type who thinks of a winter coat as a major investment, stick to a traditional black, navy, charcoal or brown wool and update it with trendy accessories. (The most versatile length is between knee and ankle. It looks good with skirts or pants.) Or buy a tweed: Your coat will be fashion-forward this year -- the menswear look is oh so hot -- and then revert back to a classic for the next several seasons.

For every trend there's a countertrend. Menswear style is influencing a lot of fashion this season, but the ladylike look is just as important in outerwear as it is in dresses and sportswear. Picture Jackie O before she was Jackie O -- in those feminine coats with a princess cut she wore as First Lady.

"The newness is in all the shaped coats," says Roseanne Morrison, a fashion editor at the Tobe Report, a fashion/merchandising publication for retailers. "Everything has a waist." Look for belts, inset waistlines and seaming.

When you're buying a second coat, you can let yourself go a little. Choices in styles abound, including a variety of woolen short coats, Arctic hooded parkas, jackets and layering pieces. Pea coats, barn coats, duffles and motorcycle jackets are available this season in lots of colors and novelty textures.

The boldest way to make a statement is to buy a coat in winter white or one of the hot new pastels such as pink, ice blue or mint green. Any hue will do, though, as long as it's bright.

The fashion designers' runways for fall were filled with skiwear, like Ralph Lauren's fur-trimmed parkas, and these have made their ways into stores just in time for the wintry weather. If you can't afford a designer parka, what retailers call "performance outerwear" from companies like Pacific Trail suddenly looks stylish this winter, especially if it's in a great color. That includes padded vests.

"Quilted vests are incredibly popular," says Erica Archambault, public relations manager at Gap, Inc. "They're transitional as well as great layering pieces. The quilting is condensed; they're more refined; and they have a more feminine fit." Parkas, too, aren't as bulky as in past years. Like this season's woolen coats, they have a more feminine shape.

Details can say "this is new" as much as certain styles. Today's statement looks include hardware such as zippers, ribbons, toggle and turnkey closures, fur and faux fur, big collars, and hoods.

Fake shearling continues to be everywhere, says Diane Daly of Hecht's department stores. "Buy a three-quarter coat in shearling or something in a great color. Color is key this season."

But if a pastel pea jacket just isn't you, add color to your winterwear with a wonderful scarf or a knit hat, perhaps in multicolor stripes. Driver and newsboy caps may not keep you as warm, but they look very Now.

Dress gloves made news on the fall runways -- first of all because they were there, but also because of their offbeat colors like acid green. The newest gloves for outdoor wear are just as unexpectedly bright.

Boots, of course, never go out of fashion, but this season you can update a more conservative coat with knee-high styles and boots with hardware like nail head trim, buckles and zippers. And there are always Uggs, the sheepskin-lined boots made famous by Kate Hudson and other hip young movie stars.

To wrap it up: This season buy yourself a nicely fitted coat or a parka in a pastel color, add several trendy accessories, and you may find yourself actually hoping for another blizzard.

What you need to be toasty

Baby, it's cold outside. Here's our shopping list for a newer, warmer you this winter:

* A dress coat that goes in at the waist

* A fur-trimmed jacket

* A woolen short coat in a pastel hue

* A puffy, but not too puffy, down parka

* A ski-inspired vest

* Leather gloves in an unusual shade

* Boots with hardware

* A knit watch cap in a hot color

* A bright striped scarf

* Something quilted

* Something pink

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