Fall is all about textures, details


February 09, 2005|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Fashion Week is in full and fabulous swing. For five jam-packed days out of this style-setting eight days, dozens of the top names in American fashion have shown off their best offerings for the fast-approaching fall season.

And as in the past two seasons of ladylike and light and airy styles, designers have gone for all things pretty and feminine.

But this time, they added a little more.

More volume. More layers. More embellishments. More fur.

If last fall was ladylike, this fall will be ladylike luxe.

"Overall, there's a real return to suited dressing. Everything is much more put together," says Michael Fink, senior fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue. "We've been in such a sportswear mode for so long. It's teaching ourselves again how to dress head to toe."

"Nothing's plain in fashion anymore," says Pam Perret, who forecasts fashion trends for Nordstrom.

Perret calls this piled-on look "maximilism" - a backlash reaction to the minimalism of the early 1990s, and the simple, somber feel of fashion right after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Ornamentation, embellishment and lush and varied fabrics - such as plaids, tweeds, wool, fur and leather - were all over the runways this week, a good indication to Perret and others that those details will abound in stores this fall.

"This will be a really good season for choices," Perret says. "It will give the customer a chance to show her own personal style."

Of the many choices available this fall to style-watchers, four really stand out.

Skirts: This spring, designers reintroduced jeans-and-khakis fans to the fun and romantic skirt. Although they showed some slim and sexy pencil skirts, fashion enthusiasts appeared most excited about the fuller skirts that came down spring's runways.

For fall, there are even more versions of the full skirt.

"That beautiful full skirt is continuing from spring, and it still looks wonderful," says Fink, of Saks Fifth Avenue. Fink loves the length of the new full skirt - just below the knee, and the drop waist (which means it's fitted around the waist and then fills out), which makes it sexier.

Carolina Herrera showed a range of sexy, full skirts - fluted skirts, trumpet skirts, skirt suits, skirts made of shimmery lamM-i. Reem Acra's skirts glittered and shimmy-shimmied.

But for some, the enthusiasm for skirts has been tempered.

"I don't call it the skirt; I call it the enemy," says Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive fashion editor at large for Glamour magazine. She says the combination of a higher waistline (being seen across the board on skirts as well as pants), a drop waist and a full skirt is hard for most women to pull off.

Especially many of the skirts seen this week, she says, which have pleats, tiers, pockets or poufs.

"The full skirt is the new shape. They look fresh and they look cute. But I can't imagine any real women wearing them. I think it's beautiful if you're 5-foot-11 and you weigh 123 pounds," she says. "Or if you're Sarah Jessica Parker."

Sweaters: Designers are showing sweaters of all shapes and sizes this season.

This week, designers such as Cynthia Steffe, Betsey Johnson, Oscar de la Renta, and Tracy Reese showed gorgeous sweaters - cardigans, boyfriend-style, T-shirt style, bathrobe-style, wraps - with jeweled necks and sleeves, heavy embroidery, fur trim or metallic accents.

They are to be worn with everything. Jeans, skirts, slacks - and even over evening gowns.

"A sweater is the new blazer," says Glamour's Schwartz. "Even though the blazer is still in, a sweater can be just as formal as a blazer now, because it's embellished."

Jackets and coats: Just about every designer made a big deal this season about coats and jackets.

Short jackets with skirts. Long coats with suits. Jackets with three-quarter-length sleeves. Coats with fur necks or jeweled wrists. Coats with belts, buttons, beads. Coats with attitude.

Cynthia Steffe's coats have a Russian look. Diane von Furstenberg goes one better with coats with a Russian military look. Many designers' coats, such as those at Tracy Reese and Oscar de la Renta, have a 1950s feel.

"We went from the '40s to the 1950s Hitchcock heroine," says Robert Verdi, host of the Style Network's hit television show Fashion Police. "Overall, it's sort of 1950s sophisticated socialite with a little bit of bohemian princess."

While the coat is a necessity for the fall, Glamour's Schwartz says, "It can't be a classic. It has to have embellishment - beads, fur-trimmed, belted, a fabric that's so luxurious you can't even imagine owning it."

Rich, luxurious embellishments: If it doesn't glitter, shine, sparkle or shimmy, don't buy it for fall. If it isn't soft and plush, like velvet, cashmere or fox; or if it isn't deep and rich, like leather or suede, leave it in the store.

"There's a total trend toward metallics, a lot of gold especially," says Saks' Fink. "But it's not in-your-face gold. It's like it's been burnished. It's very old-world."

Texture is also important.

"This fall, fabrication will become a focus," Nordstrom's Perret says. "Plaids, tweeds, wool, brocades, leather."

"And everything is a bit oversized," Fink adds. Accessories are big: big beads, big purses.

This fall, nothing is plain. The skirts are fuller; the sweaters are beaded, jeweled and shiny. The fabrics are lush.

"You're spending so much money on your clothes," Glamour's Schwartz says. "Now you're going to actually look like it."

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