pump up the VOLUME

For Fall, Look For Flared Sleeves, Bigger Collars And A Lot Less Decoration


YOU MIGHT WANT MORE VOLUME IN YOUR car speakers. You probably wish for it in your hair.

But in your clothes?

In a society obsessed with slimness, can it be true that volume has sneaked its way into fall fashion, in everything from skirts to sleeves, coats to collars?

It seems hard to believe, but fuller is in, and it's not really all that shocking. The plumping up of fashion has been coming for quite a while, albeit stealthily.

On designers' runways two seasons ago, bubble skirts and egg-shaped dresses were the occasional artistic talk-pieces of otherwise unremarkable collections. Fashion editors and observers were dubious. "You'll get used to it," proclaimed Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director Michael Fink, last year at a briefing for fashion journalists, "once you see more of it."

And this fall, you'll see more of it than ever before. So get used to it.

Volume is the key trend in fashion for fall. It is what will separate fall 2006 -- a season of richness and femininity -- from the falls of 2004 and 2005, which were nothing if not rich and feminine.

"The newest trend in fashion is that we're starting to see clothes move away from the body," says Gregg Andrews, fashion director for Nordstrom's eastern region. "We've been in a very strict lean silhouette for very many seasons now. And the newest look is really about volume moving to the upper part of the body. Egg- and bubble-shaped tops, blouses, dresses. We've seen the peasant skirts and the wide-leg trouser. Now we're seeing more A-line and trapeze shapes in dresses and tunic-length tops. Even in the sleeves and the collar shapes, we're seeing more triangular or flared sleeves, [and] bigger, more statement-making collars."

The new proportion calls for some balance. After all, despite the clever names of fall's trendier items, no woman really wants to look like a bubble or, equally as bad, an egg.

So the rule for fall is that volume ought to be isolated -- either it's at the top or it's at the bottom.

And since the newest looks for fall involve fullness up top, then its counterpart must be narrowness on the bottom.

Enter the skinny pant, the pencil skirt, the snug-fitting legging and the opaque tight.

"The best way to wear volume is to pick one piece with volume and then keep the rest of the silhouette slim," says Hope Greenberg, fashion director for Lucky magazine. "So if you're picking a swingy A-line top, think about wearing it with a skinny pant or a very slim pencil skirt. If you're doing pants with volume, you want a more fitted top. You have to just keep it from looking sloppy or clownish."

Especially since this fall is a season of sobriety and sophistication.

Styles are more subdued and understated than in recent seasons. Colors are muted -- grays, blacks, creams and deep greens.

"Fall is more tailored, more sophisticated," says Laura McDowell, fashion spokeswoman for TJ Maxx. "There's less of the super-feminine of seasons past."

Which means less embellishment and decoration; fewer baubles and embroidery, says Andrews of Nordstrom.

"We're seeing a more traditional mode of dress," Andrews says. "There's less overt sexiness."

Which is not to say fall isn't sexy. It most definitely is. The sexiness just comes more covered up -- in lovely layers and chunky knit sweaters, wools, plaids and shearlings. At Lucky, they're calling the look "luxe country," or "luxe lumberjack."

"The chunky knit, it's cozy, it's comfy, it's warm, but it's always very sexy," says Genevieve Yraola, senior fashion market editor at Shop Etc. magazine. "M Missoni, which is really hot this season, has come out with amazing sweater dresses that still hug your shape."

Sweaters and knits of all kinds are key this fall.

"Layering is really important," says McDowell. "There's some gorgeous, gorgeous sweaters in just some fun, different shapes. People are layering different sweaters, maybe a turtleneck or a cowl under a longer wrap sweater coat."

Other trends this season include a heavy borrowing from the world of menswear -- in wide-leg trousers, houndstooth and glen-plaid patterns in vests, jackets and skirts, and slimly tailored suiting.

"Menswear comes in every fall," says Yraola, "but this is a newer take. It's very Katharine Hepburn a la Woman of the Year."

Another look is an opulent, royal, Victorian trend characterized by ruffles, brocades and velvets, and, most importantly, the classic white shirt.

"This time it has more romantic details," Andrews says. "It's feminized, with lace insets, bows at the neckline, tucking or pleating that create sort of a big effect. Flared sleeves, sleeves with a slight puff at the shoulder, bishop-shaped sleeves. These very feminine, romantic, almost vintage-inspired blouses are a great counterpart to the menswear-inspired fabrics."

Whether wide, skinny, chain, metallic, snakeskin or animal print, this season's must-have accessory is the belt.

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