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Silhouettes set the tone for fall fashions

There are seasons when the fashion outlook for women hinges on a key color.

And then there are seasons when it's all about a dominant print, some bygone era, or an overarching theme dictated by historic events.

But this fall and winter, womenswear is best defined by silhouette. Silhouette, in fashion, is simply the outline of a look as created by the design and construction of apparel. It's the unmistakable shape of an ensemble that reveals at a glance what a look is all about.

And this season, silhouettes abound.

"The mandate is more, do what's right for you, your lifestyle, your closet," said Tom Julian, a Pittsburgh native and fashion trend analyst with New York-based Fallon Worldwide. "More and more designers talk about the ability of women to take one part and add another part -- sometimes another designer look or specialty label -- and that is what the modern woman does!"

When women exercise their prerogative to mix and match varied and versatile pieces, interesting silhouettes invariably follow.

For fall, military looks are heralded by jackets and coats with infantry-inspired detailing and construction.

Borrow-from-the-boys looks feature man-inspired suitings in pinstripe, houndstooth and tweed with decidedly feminine cuts and embellishments and boyish-made-girly accessories such as animal-print fedoras and gem-colored velvet newsboy caps.

On the softer side, waist-defining hourglass skirt suits recall the '30s, shearling jackets over delicate dresses marry the rugged and romantic, and full skirts peeking from under skinny overcoats slim the torso before bottoming out with a trumpet-y flare.

Prairie skirts and cowboy boots are unmistakably Western, ultra-dramatic blouses over tulip or bubble skirts cut a dramatic silver-screen silhouette, and short cocktail dresses with poufy skirts take evening in a fresh, exciting direction.

"The fashion influences," Julian added, "are broad and wide, modern and cool, classic and eclectic at the same time. A bit of opposites attracting but also interacting."

And as these and other fabrics interact in the hands of designers, a common result is "short over long, slim over voluminous and a great deal of unexpected or cool expected -- velvet and denim, tweed and crepe, cord and cashmere."

The trend is evident just about everywhere, from Kaufmann's and Dress Barn to Maxalto and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Fur pieces, embellished denim jeans, tailored skirts, leopard prints, tweeds, cocktail suits and dresses, fun belts and sweater sets with shawl collars, leather closures and hip ruffles make interesting combinations in the fall mix.

Fabrics are always soft even in menswear-inspired looks such as a gray pinstripe pantsuit with a lavender silk shirt and matching necktie by Basler.

"It goes from being very romantic and very feminine to also being feminine but with man tailoring," said Bucci. "There are some wonderful men's tailored suits, but with a feminine look."

"We're seeing incredible fashion for women," said Veronica Valladares, a spokeswoman for Dress Barn. "I think it's great. It's about time. I know we've been going in this direction for a while, but the layperson, it takes them a while to realize that they have all these options. Our theory is, it's all about choice."


Wardrobe for the Working Woman

The Do's

  • Do buy the best you can afford.
  • Do choose your colors carefully. Color says a lot about your success, background, status and authority.
  • Do wear basic, closed toed pumps.
  • Do dress well when you go shopping for your business wardrobe.
  • Do select quality accessories, they are so very noticeable.
  • Do invest in a single breasted jacket.
  • Do wear panty hose.
  • Do give as much attention to your business casual wardrobe as you do to your regular business attire.
  • Do remember a garment's effectiveness is not in the beholder's eye, but rather in his cultural and professional conditioning.
  • The Dont's

  • Don't let your background kill your career. Dress like your boss' "socio-economic sister."
  • Don't dress too casually. You cannot dress as casually as your male counterpart.
  • Don't follow the self-appointed experts. Find out what qualifies your clothing advisor as an expert.
  • Don't assume you can dress the same way at every step up the ladder.
  • Don't misjudge how men interpret your image. Men and women see clothing differently.
  • Don't get caught in the "fashion trap." If you let the fashion magazines dictate your wardrobe, you'll be labeled a professional lightweight.
  • Don't ever assume are too successful to follow the rules.
  • Don't confuse sex appeal with successful dressing. Men like women dressed in sexy style but it doesn't help a women's professional career.
  • Don't skimp on quality. The right wardrobe is a career investment.
  • Don't neglect garment care. Rumpled garments say volumes about your self image and work habits.
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