- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fashion designers have made their case, and now it’s up to the retailers, editors and stylists who attended New York Fashion Week to weigh in on what will be in — or out — in the fall.

Of course, the real verdict will be revealed in August and September, when ordinary people do their seasonal shopping. The choices for women likely will include 1970s- and ‘80s-inspired clothes: skinny pants — even leggings — chunky-knit cardigan coats, fine-knit jersey dresses, shirtdresses, men’s-style suits with feminine lace or tie-neck blouses, bow adornments and a lot of black and other somber colors.

Pleats and thick belts were all over the runways; provocative, skin-flashing clothes were not. Coats, many with three-quarter-length sleeves and swinging silhouettes, stood out in luxe brocades or soft wools.

Patricia Field, the costume designer for “Sex and the City” and the upcoming movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” says the season marked a return of real American looks.

“American style is simple, a little utilitarian, strong and outspoken without being too theatrical. We’re the ones who wear jeans, T-shirts, trench coats and sneakers. It’s not only a little casual, but also clean and classic,” Miss Field says. “We’re not from aristocrats, we’re from the cowboys and settlers, and that shows in our style.”

Miss Field says she particularly liked the unfussy beauty of Ralph Lauren’s dark green collection of cashmere outfits, even the leggings, which were a popular look on other catwalks as well.

And why not, Miss Field asks, defending the much-maligned tight pants.

“They’re actually a classic. They’re easy and functional. If you style them wrong, they look bad, but that’s with everything,” she says.

Michael Fink, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, adds that leggings can be worn with almost every outfit. On the runways, they were shown under power skirt suits, with long sweaters and with tough leather jackets.

Menswear-inspired vests also made a comeback, part of the overall move toward embracing fine tailoring for women.

“I love the new feminine-tailored menswear — the new portrait-collared jackets mixed with a wide, wide pant,” Mr. Fink says.

One look that might take some attitude adjustment is hosiery with open-toe shoes. For years, women were told it was a “don’t.” That rule is bending, according to Suze Yalof Schwartz, Glamour’s executive fashion editor at large.

Opaque tights can create a funky, casual look, she says, but sheer pantyhose still is a no-no.

“You shouldn’t be able to see your toe polish,” she advises, and it’s not an appropriate look for formal occasions.

Michael Kors’ collection of collegiate looks, which seemed rooted in the 1970 film “Love Story,” topped Miss Yalof Schwartz’s list. She says the clothes were about “looking perfect from head to toe.”

Meanwhile, Glamour’s Editor in Chief Cindi Leive says many of the trends were extensions of things already doing well in stores. Those include flashes of metallic fabric, lace, skirts, adorned coats and neutral colors.

“These are things two or three years ago that would have been considered extreme,” Miss Leive says, “but women like wearing that metallic bag or shoe for day, and they’ve taken to the tulip skirt.”

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