Falling for fashion during summer

Some just can't wait to break out their cool-weather clothes

August 20, 2007|By Tanika White | Tanika White,Sun Reporter

On a recent day this summer, it was 92 degrees, hotter than usual for the time of year.

But that didn't stop Mount Vernon's Christopher Howarth from throwing on a brand-new, long-sleeved Missoni jacket when he went out after work to walk his dog, Baron.

"It's definitely a fall jacket," says Howarth, 33, a project manager at Johnson Berman, an interior design and architectural firm. "But there was a cool breeze in the air, so I thought it was a good opportunity to wear it."

Breeze schmeeze.

Howarth wore the way-too-warm jacket for the same reason he's already worn his near-knee-high Prada boots and a heavy pair of cotton twill Gucci trousers, despite the simmering summer temperatures that have been here since last month. He also has bought a Prada raincoat that is a fall item.

Stores already are selling clothes for the fall season, and Howarth - like many die-hard fashion followers - just can't wait to wear the newest and latest that designers have to offer.

"All the fall stuff starts to roll in, and you see stuff you want," says Howarth. "And even though it's 95 degrees out and 80 percent humidity, it's like, `Oh, I wish I could wear that.' So you do."

He's not the only one to suffer a little sweat for the sake of fashion.

Lisa Schatz, owner of Cupcake, a boutique in Fells Point, says customers have nearly cleaned out an order of cashmere sweaters she got in during one of the city's recent heat waves.

"It hailed outside and it was 96 degrees," the day the sweaters arrived, says Schatz, who admits to owning about a dozen fall pieces already. "But it didn't matter. Let me tell you, that whole group [of sweaters] is gone. Because it was cute and it was fashion-y and they liked it so much, they bought it anyway."

But don't solely blame the overeager, early fall shoppers, Schatz says. The haute haste is as much the fault of the raging retail cycle.

Shopping seasons circulate so fast, by the time most customers get ready for one, designers and retailers are preparing for another.

"Designers really push it earlier and earlier," Schatz says. "They're in full clearance mode by June and their fall [season] starts in July. Meanwhile on the calendar, it's technically just become summer."

Celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch bemoans the lightning-quick pace retailers have adopted lately, calling it "the downfall of fashion."

But even Bloch - a man who gives fashion advice to stars such as Cindy Crawford, Sandra Bullock, John Travolta and Salma Hayek - admits to succumbing.

While shopping in Paris a few Julys ago, Bloch bought a gorgeous sweater, he says, only to come back to New York and find that it was too warm to wear it.

"The reality is I never wore the sweater until probably sometime in late November, middle of December," he says. "It was just wasting space, prime real estate in my closet."

The moral of this story, says Dannielle Romano, editor-at-large of Daily Candy, an electronic newsletter of hot new trends, is: No matter how cute the fall clothes are in the stores right now, shoppers should try to avoid being "fashion victims."

"We appreciate and encourage enthusiasm, but not at the expense of heat stroke," Romano says. "It's great to be into the latest new thing; that's sort of what my job is all about. But when it's not practical, you just sort of look a little foolish."

Not to mention, Romano says, you'll get more bang for your buck if you wait until it's really fall to break out that great trench coat or leather minidress.

"August is the month where no one is working, or trying really hard not to work," she says. "So I don't even know who's seeing these people in their new fall clothes, because most people are on the beach in terrycloth rompers right now."

Howarth says wearing the latest fall clothes - even in the middle of summer - isn't something he does for other people. He does it because he simply loves clothes, both buying them and wearing them.

At last month's Artscape, for example, Howarth proudly donned his tall Prada riding boots, while the majority of festivalgoers were in flimsy flip-flops.

"The boots, I probably should not have been wearing," he says, while laughing about how hot it was at Artscape. "But I did look good."

tanika.white@baltsun.com

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