Just like this season's apparel and accessories, fall's outerwear -- everything from capes to wraps, leather coats to wool-blendtrenches -- sports a new attitude.
Rather than merely serving as coverings for the lean jeans andpencil and bubble skirts taking women's fashion by storm, theseason's outerwear is making style statements of its own.
You'll find coats without closures and with belted ties, andothers where jeweled or military-inspired buttons and details makethe garment something special. Lengths also are part of fall'souterwear story, whether you're talking sleeves (above-the-wrist onesare especially chic) or lengths (everything from waist- to maxi-length works).
'What I like is there are all these classic colors, the thick woolcoats your mom used to buy you when you were a kid,' says Luckymagazine creative director Andrea Linett. But there's nothingchildish about these looks, as designers and manufacturers updatethem with detailing and fresh silhouettes.
Here are some of the trends making news this fall:
The military trend, whether highlighted by shoulder epaulets orshiny silver buttons, does a fashionable about-face every few years.But it looks especially fresh this fall when worn in contrast to theromantic ruffles and lace we're seeing in women's blouses and tops.
Not only will women spot these in-the-Navy looks in long lengths,they'll also find oh-so-hot pea coats at every price point. Double-breasted numbers inspired by the hip-length jackets worn by U.S.sailors look smart in gray, camel, chocolate and traditional navy.
These looks are decorated with 'just enough hardware,' saysStephanie Solomon, Bloomingdale's vice president and fashion directorof women's ready-to-wear and accessories. 'It's not overdone.'
In the trenches
On a similar note, trench coats -- first worn by British militaryofficers during World War I -- are marching fashionably into storesthis fall. But rather than being offered in water-repellent fabricsso common during spring, fall's trenches are saluting in wool andother fabrics that not only work in cold weather but also feel athome throughout the year.
Look for stylish versions in nontraditional colors such as ivoryand red -- and in fabrics ranging from cashmere to crushed velvet.And like most of the season's outerwear and apparel trends, you'llsee the in-charge trench look at a wide range of prices.
It's a black (and white) thing
In houndstooth, herringbone, polka dots or jaunty plaid patterns,coats feel especially smart.
These black-and-white numbers look great when tossed over thesolid neutrals that are making news this fall. And fashion-forwardwomen will wear patterned versions over prints (but be sure theprints' proportions match).
Fortunately, many of fall's strongest fashion trends overlap. Thatmeans that for leather, the most directional looks are distressed andare offered in brown shades. Shoppers will find these coats largelyin jacket form, rather than full-length.
But not all leather is looking worn and stylishly beaten up.Makers such as Vakko are taking the luxe route, showing sumptuousburnished lambskin coats in long lengths, complete with hand-threaded trim. And Escada takes it a step further, offering a butter-soft long tangerine trench complete with hardware buckles at thewrist.
Swing's the thing
Think of this fall's capes as the updated version of ponchos,which took retail by storm a couple years ago. Their swingysilhouette is of-the-moment, especially when topping slim jeans,trousers and skirts.
It's all about movement and a touch of 'swing.'
'If you're going to accommodate the sweater dress or layering, youneed volume over it,' says Stephanie Solomon of Bloomingdale's.That's where capes and other coats that stand away from the body comein. Plus, these lighter-weight looks transition nicely from warm falldays into cooler weather.
'In Chicago and any metropolitan city,' says Nena Ivon of SaksFifth Avenue, 'you're going to wear a shawl or cape over your coat.'That way, you'll be fashionable but won't freeze once 'the hawk'starts blowing.
While gloves are hardly about fashion during frigid Chicagomonths, sleek leather ones are going glam this fall -- and for goodreason. Not only do they add an elegant touch to any ensemble, casualor dressy (especially in black), but they're almost a required touchunder three-quarter-length coat sleeves.
And while hats are de rigueur when the weather gets cold, thisyear's close-fitting, narrow-brimmed cloches (with a 1920s-turned-'60s appeal) and reinvented newsboy caps are equally strong. Use one -- perhaps in colored felt or even knit crochet -- to lend a dash ofretro-inspired softness to your structured look.
(Or what you should leave in your closet this fall):
'Michelin Man' puffy jackets
Boxy jackets with prominent shoulder pads (a la '80s)
DAY & NIGHT
Two looks for fall: One for turning heads on your way to work; theother for turning heads on Rush Street.
FOR MORNING RUSH HOUR: In an overwhelmingly neutral season, red isabout the only vivid bold color given the green light for fall. ThisEllen Tracy trench ($798) bears a Parisian flair -- especially whenteamed with an always-right white blouse ($198), slim black sateentwill trousers ($298) and gloves. A black beret caps the look. AtMarshall Field's/Macy's on State Street and Neiman Marcus.
FOR EVENING COCKTAILS:
Nothing says nighttime like texture, color and a little bit ofsheen. This red crushed velvet coat ($3,150) from German-based Escadanot only picks up the season's super-hot trench theme, it alsodresses up any ensemble it covers with these crystal-detailedbuttons. Add strappy sandals and you're good to go. At Escada, 840 N.Michigan.
Part five of a five-part series