The fancy black dress

Feminine details -- lace, beads, ribbons and tulle -- embellish dark finery


September 17, 2006|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Reporter

This fall, black is the new black. Color is out. (Give or take a splash of red.) Dark is in.

Black, always in fashion, is this season's must-have color, says Michael Fink, a Saks Fifth Avenue vice president and women's fashion director. "Next to the drab grays and browns currently saturating the market, black looks positively uplifting."

Some shoppers are skeptical. One of them is Catherine Hamilton, a 35-year-old who lives in SoWeBo and works in sales. Black is ordinary, she says.

"Every season women are looking for something special, something that will pop, something that will make them look great. You say 'little black dress.' You never say 'special black dress.' "

It raises the question: How is this season's black any different from last year's little black dress, basic black pants and the black cardigan that can be worn over everything? Most closets are already full of black clothes because they're slimming and versatile.

The answer, says Robyn Fischer, owner of the Red Garter boutique in Pikesville, lies in the shape, texture and detailing of this fall's clothing. "It's the mix that makes black exciting."

Head-to-toe black looks very new, she says. The mix can be unexpected -- for instance, a black lace skirt, black cashmere sweater, black stockings and black boots for the office.

Another difference this time round, says Fink, is "fabrics that are both matte and shine, textures that catch the light -- showing off the depth of every shade of black out there. I love black patent leather as trims on clothing, but especially used for long gloves scrunched down to the wrist, and an all-over black patent leather satchel bag."

You'll be seeing lots of lace, ruffles and flowing fabrics. The little black dress is no longer minimalist but has tulle, jet beading, velvet ribbon or satin trim. A crinkled georgette silk dress by Michael Kors at Macy's looks more like lingerie than a dress, with its lace trim at a plunging V-neckline and hem, and velvet trim at the empire waist.

This fall's black, says Nicole Fischelis, Macy's East women's ready-to-wear fashion director, "has a very feminine side. It's very romantic."

For work, she suggests, indulge your feminine side by pairing a black chiffon or ruffled blouse with a tailored wool jacket or black pinstripe suit.

In New York, says Florence Sokol, owner of Jones & Jones in the Village of Cross Keys, women are punching up their head-to-toe black with red or animal-print shoes. If that's too wild for you, a colorful handbag will do the trick.

But if you want your black to look fashion forward, she says, you should definitely invest in this fall's clothes because the shapes are so different. Most important is a skinny-legged pant. Jackets are tapered, and a longer black tunic to wear over leggings is pretty much a must-have for the fashionista.

Now for the good news:

"You can probably get away with last year's shoes," she says. "The shapes are about the same."


* Jersey dress

* Little black dress with lots of feminine details and trim

* Flared or pencil skirt

* A suit or pants suit, shaped and with embellishment

* Leggings

* Skinny pants

* Tunic top

* Ruffled chiffon blouse

* Tapered jacket

* Opaque stockings

* Booties or platform boots

* Anything in patent leather -- shoes, gloves, bag

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