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Season's styles are cleaner, simpler



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Styles are reflecting some of the most significant changes in years.

MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

Check your supply of leggings and tights.

Put oversized cozy knit sweaters on your shopping list. Ditto for a simple white blouse. And a simple suit with a bit of pizzazz will serve you well.

So many choices, so little time. And for many of us, so little budget.

This season's fashions in the stores and magazines reflect some of the most significant shifts we've seen in years. The old wardrobe may need some attention. The challenge: How do you look at once updated, modern, age-appropriate and, well, pretty?

Be aware, most of the new clothes are cleaner, simpler and a touch more grown up. Put away the crystal-splattered outfits and the jeweled jeans. Bohemian has gone the way of cropped tops and short shorts. Lose the chandelier earrings and the cowboy boots. Tone down the flared, patterned skirt. The A-line and pencil-slim skirts secretaries wore in the 1950s are in favor.

Classics

First the basics: What matters today? Shape, proportion and an old-fashioned word like "classic." The lean-cropped jacket that everyone wanted last season goes to the back of the closet. A long tunic sweater or blousy jacket replaces it. Why? Because the looser top looks so good with the lean stovepipe pants or close-cut jeans.

"It's about volume," says Aime Lippencott, a fashion director for Nordstrom. "A blousy top with a skinny leg."

Balance can serve as a guideline. Wide-legged pants haven't gone away. They often come in menswear fabrics. And they demand a closer-cut, longer top.

Generally shapes are a bit kinder and gentler. Empire waists are more visible this year than hip-hugging skirts with wide, low-down belts. High-waist pants and skirts are chic, and for people with trim waists, the top looks swell tucked in. Nevertheless, nothing should be too tight or tarty unless you're a Hollywood type on the red carpet. Even mini skirts are worn with tights.

Not that we are tossing our old clothes for a shopping spree. But we think touches here and there can make a transition. Start with one garment that makes you feel like you're ready for whatever the season brings.

Leggings first

If you can buy one thing , start with tights or leggings. If you're not comfortable with a calf-length skinny knit that looks like you're wearing long johns, don't fret. Opaque tights or stockings keyed to your shoes or your skirt are an option. Either look can add a smart touch to dresses, skirts and, if your figure is trim enough, thigh-length sweaters or jackets. (Don't try it without a long look, front and back, in a full-length mirror.) Tights and leggings can run 10 to 20. It will all seem familiar to women who wore them in the '60s and '80s, but opt for a long tunic if you have put on a few pounds since then.

A white blouse should be in your closet. It may be silk and lace-trimmed or simple cotton. It's a classic garment you can wear with jeans, a suit or trousers. The mix of a soft blouse provides an interesting juxtaposition for menswear fabrics.

Layering is getting considerable attention. Getting it right is tricky because nobody wants to look like the Michelin Man. Sweaters may be layered on sweaters. Jumpers top blouses. Marc Jacobs launched the idea into orbit with a stream of soft, sweat-shirt-like fabrics. Vests, hoodies, sweater wraps and soft, woolly scarves may be part of the mix. Be sure the items blend aesthetically and are not bulky.

Soft knits are the new comfort garments. A long cardigan can be your jacket of the season. And the knit dress will be a winner for people who just want to slip something on over tights and go.

Suits

A simple suit is an important addition to your closet. Make it interesting with lean lines and narrow pants or a pencil skirt. It's a way to show off your blouse. A suit will give you the elegance of the '50s and the sense of power of the '80s.

Bring out your black from seasons past. Also consider gray, because it suits the seriousness of the times, and brown. For a bit of color, choose green, purple or red. And to update what you have, add brown to blue and pink, and black and neutrals to brights.

Think rounded, belted or trench style if it's your year to buy a coat. The military coat is getting a lot of attention. The trench coat remains a classic, helped probably by the coat Meryl Streep sported in "The Devil Wears Prada."

Shoes come with a variety of toe styles, from machete-pointed to round and child like. Platforms, which add a sense of woman-in-charge, are the mark of high fashion.

Boots can be thigh high or ankle length, with the ankle cuddlers on the newest list of comebacks.

As for handbags, the larger the better.




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