Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine
Fall & Winter Fashion

What's Hot This Season
by Francoise

The most striking new style element in the fall fashion mix is the flat-out feminine look distinguishing shape and drape. Ladylike chic is definitely back, and designers are clamoring to publicize what is a very saleable trend.

It's being labeled optimistically in some circles as "the new femininity," meaning a return to classics and attention to luxury fabrics as well as uninhibitedly sexy dressing.

Take a look at-

Vibrant color mixes
Dashing tweeds, argyles and camels
Off-the-shoulder and asymmetrical silhouettes
Supple suedes and soft leather pants
See-through blouses and loose jackets
Long and short jersey and shirtdresses
Needle thin high boot and shoe heels
Sling backs and mules with divinely French heels
Fish net hose
Clutch bags
Ornate breeches
Detachable fur collars and cuffs to add snap to suits and dresses.
Period jewelry, gold and multi-strand pearls

Any blouse or beautifully thin cashmere underlayer will do for suits, or evening wear when worn with a tantalizingly fluid skirt. Those pashmina shawls go nicely with either one.

Camel hair long belted coat
Camel hair long belted coat with sheared mink and camel stamped crocodile leather wedged heel shoes from MaxMara

Gold is the new silver ... Get out the gold jewelry, the shinier the better, particularly when paired with black - unless you can afford one of those perfectly cut gold leather pants suits. Thin or chain belts can be worn at the waist over suits or sweaters. Exaggerated gold hoop earrings have held their own as a popular "street fashion" for decades.

Red is the new black ... 0r is it? The color is strong for fall as a brightener, although black in many fabrics and forms will probably always remain a woman's most suitable choice for both day and night occasions.

Mid-heel slingback with tiger ornament from

Mid-heel slingback with tiger ornament from Gucci

Not that black has lost its allure as the safe choice. It only seems a little dull without some added flash. Consider a black and red geometric styled spaghetti strap dress, for instance. (Add a rhinestone pin and you are in business.)

Argyle is back, in line with other patterns of brilliance, especially in kilts. Corduroy and suede can be worn day and night as well as for weekend retreats. Call it "country chic."

A variety of handbags include the clutch as well as the man-size carryall. Hermes' version is especially luxurious - and expensive. It's just under $8,000, by special order only.

Decorative details matter, too. Floral touches, such as the Chanel camellia in leather. Similar motifs are done in sequins to be worn at the shoulder or the waist. A flower in matching fabric worn at the neck is being sold with silk blouses from Tahari. Gloves, too, are being given an upgrade, with appliques, buttons and other quirky details.

Texture, that mysterious word, shows in many forms but the most prominent is hosiery. Shocking stockings draw attention purposefully to the legs.

Texture also means variety of weight in such fabrics as cashmere, where different grades (i.e. quality) are available.

Gold leather jean with a green cashmere cable crewneck and a bronze maribou boa from Ralph Lauren
Gold leather jean with a green cashmere
cable crewneck and a bronze maribou boa from Ralph Lauren

Local retailers are bracing for an incredibly busy season that was given an early start with a late September cold snap that sent women running to stores to stock up on their favorites. Chillier weather also meant that trunk shows in fur weren't out of line. Yes, stores do ask sponsors of charity events if they will mind showing the "real" along with the faux, and most of the time no one blinks. Few apparently can resist a lavender shearling jacket from Escada, for instance.

Among American designers, Michael Kors is winning praise for finding a niche in the market that combines sporty tailored and easy to wear clothing with a decidedly soft and elegant look. He provides the smart moves such as the discreet boa to be worn by day.

Ralph Lauren is another who can be counted on to highlight a trend. He does his classic suits in ways that allow multiple uses, both in cream and in black, in leather and in wool. Calvin Klein is simplicity itself - except for the chiffon scarf and the thin metal belt worn around the hips atop a form-fitting skirt.

When it comes to tweed, watch out. Valentino's idea is to add large cuffs and fly-away collars, whereas Jill Sander's long loose tweed skirt is worn with an asymmetrically cut white blouse.

Navy wool jacket over a red silk shirtdress from Chanel
Navy wool jacket over a red silk shirtdress from Chanel

Armani makes the grade as usual, touting sophistication with a black leather cocktail dress slit up the thigh, and soft short long-sleeved patterned leather jackets. (He has the special recognition of a retrospective opening this month at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.) The venerable Italian couturier even delves into patent leather, usually found only for shoes and bags.

No set style exists anymore. By now, women customers are generally assumed to know enough to select the mode that suits them best. There is much greater choice in period dressing and in combinations, with Edwardian fashion shown alongside punk. Retro is always 'a la mode. The difference this season is the acceptance of glitter and gold at all hours, in any combination.

Other designer notes to consider:

Feather arm decorations from Chloe; gold satin tuxedos from Albar Elbaz for Yves Saint-Laurent (he also produced a handsome belted brown suede dress); Native American themes from Yamamoto that included feathery fur hats; the beaded sequin cocktail dresses from Prada; Ferre's ruffled pleated formal tops.

So, whether you're shopping at a particular designer's boutique, or at a store that carries a multitude of designers such as Saks Jandel on Wisconsin Avenue, all the above fit the general theme of luxe and richesse, a devil-may-care attitude that allows a woman to steal whatever show and scene she decides to create this fall and winter.

Byzantine influenced ruby and diamond necklace and bracelet set in 18 carat gold and platinum by Tiffany & Co.
Byzantine influenced ruby and diamond necklace and
bracelet set in 18 carat gold and platinum by Tiffany & Co.


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