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Putting together your fall look

Fashions come and go, which is what makes fashion a big business. A designer’s shift in viewpoint – legs seem to be the focus this season, set off by pleats, textured stockings, and pumps – is an update for the fashion-conscious. We like some of what we see.

The Suit

If you make only one major addition to your fall wardrobe, it should be a suit. Suits have made such an impact this season, for both day and evening, that everything else complements them, making a pulled-together look easy to achieve. Jackets are shorter and slimmer, belted or gathered at the waist, in nub-by fabrics like mohair and boucle. Suit silhouettes include wide shoulders that narrow into slim skirts or skirts pleated in every direction: double-kick pleats at the back, asymmetrical kilt pleats at the side, or mushroom (small accordian) pleats falling all around. The colors, less vibrant than last spring’s turquoises and pinks, tend toward deep jewel tones like sapphire and jade, as well as heather blues and grays. You’ll see classic blouses in silks for day, camisoles in satin for evening. The Pump

The pump is the dressy accessory that matches the sophisticated city look of the suit, but these aren’t pumps like mother wore. For day, try wine and mallard blue suede, or kidskin trimmed in metal or reptile; for evening, black satin or suede topped with fluffy pompoms or wide faille bows.

Bill Baum, divisional merchandise manager of ladies’ shoes at Neiman-Marcus, says color makes all the difference. “If you’ve got the basic black suit, you’ll add color in a blouse and shoes that match. And if your suit is colorful, you’ll buy a pump in black or wine. Believe it or not, wine is truly becoming a basic color in shoes, like beige used to be.”

According to Baum, boots are still fashion news, but this fall they are shorter and crumpled around the ankle. “The straight boot with a side zipper is still functional, but certainly not new. If you need a reason to buy another pair of boots, it’s because you want them shorter, or soft and crumpled, or western.”

The Jewelry

The colors in suits and pumps tell what to expect in jewelry: if not real sapphires or rubies, then the look of them. Heavier necklaces (for the open necklines on blouses and camisoles) are news, and we’re glad to see pearls making a strong comeback, both in opera and choker lengths. In fact, beads of all kinds in high-fashion colors are very strong, as is anything in black: black with gold, black with rhinestones, black with pearls. Our favorite is feathers from head to toe: feather hair pins and lapel pins, feathers on hats and at the waist, feathers as trim on high vamp pumps, even as earrings. Earrings, by the way, are bigger and bolder – buttons, shells, swirls, clumps of pearls.

The Hat

Hats never lost popularity with older women, and they’re a necessity for bridesmaids, but then what? This fall, the all-important suit provides the answer. Close-fitting cloches and berets (we like those trimmed in fur or feathers) are sleek and sophisticated. And we believe the designers when they say that hats complete the new look.

The Belt and Bag

The clutch bag continues to be fashion news, but expect to see it in reptile, another new touch of class. And though most of us can’t afford real alligator like mother wore, the simulated reptile looks too good to pass up just because it’s not the real thing. Belts are news on the suit jacket, in reptile or leather, skinny as well as wide and sashy; skirts too are belted in soft suedes.

The Stocking

The word is that the stocking will match the shoe. For day, vertical stripes or “birds-eye,” a stitch of small dots up the entire stocking, come in every color from black to light cream. Seams are news, except these seams come out of the shoe heel to form diamond or heart patterns up the leg. Stockings for night go glitter with seamed rhinestones up the leg. Danskin has created the “shimmer leg” – a stocking with a wet look to be worn in combination with Danskin’s “dancing clothes.”

The Look

Stepping in style requires that you first step into your closet and take inventory. Keep in mind that you don’t have to maintain closets of clothes to be well-dressed; any wardrobe consultant worth her $75 a day will tell you that a well-equipped wardrobe will fit in your arms. The key: coordinated basics.

Look for several well-made jackets (preferably as parts of good-looking suits); two well-made skirts, whether they be slim, A-line, or circle; two pairs of pants, the more tailored the better; several dresses that are flattering to your figure; and a coat.

You can streamline older garmets too: Take in trouser legs to 16 inches and shorten skirt hems to 1 1/2 or 2 inches below the knee (although this is optional; a woman should choose the length most flattering to her leg).

For those of you who want to get a jump on the newest coats, European designers are showing a nine-tenths length that hits three inches or so above the average skirt hem. This may be hard for American women to accept, but the nine-tenths length works surprisingly well, especially with suit coats coordinated to the skirt or dress underneath. With the right shoes and stockings, it makes a great pulled-together look.

Now the name of the game is to accessorize with stockings and shoes, blouses and belts, jewelry in colors. Belt a basic dress with a casual leather or suede tie-knot sash in a contrasting color. Your stocking should be an extension of the dress, so stick to a closely matched color with vertical texture. Daytime pumps in kid or suede work well, or if your legs permit, try short boots. If you want a hat to top it all off, wear a creased fedora.

For evening, belt the same dress with a heavy gold rope and change to glittery, diamond-pattern stockings with satin or black suede pumps. Add an evening clutch, perhaps in metallic, and bold gold button earrings.

Begin a second grouping by matching a skirt to a jacket. Belt the jacket, this time with a slim reptile belt with gold buckle. Under the jacket, wear a brightly colored silk blouse in classic tie style or traditional open collar. Wear a gold ear clip and a bright, brassy lapel bar, and match the belt to a reptile clutch. A daytime pump again, perhaps in the same bold color as the blouse, will complete the look.

To turn this into an evening look, exchange the classic blouse for a bright satin camisole. Add a bold necklace in gold or rhinestones, with earrings to match. Trade the handbag for an evening clutch and add the satin evening pump.

Don’t let fashion dictate – take only that which looks good on your legs, at your waist, across your shoulders. The return of color to blouses will be flattering to any woman’s face. Textured stockings should be chosen with the particular outfit in mind; you can’t wear them with everything. Hats are the most individual of all accessories. The pump will tend to make a wide foot look wider, so choose a style that is open-toed or cut out at the sides.

Fashion is really the process of developing discrimination and confidence. If you know what looks good on you, you’ll look every bit as smart as you are.

What better way to enable you to decide what looks best than a style show? Today, style shows are staged in shopping center malls as well as in couture salons and tea rooms, but the purpose hasn’t changed: to make fashion-conscious women aware of what’s fashion.

Box Lunch Fashion Show. Sept 20 at noon: Fashions from Sanger Harris’ specialty shops modeled. $2.75 admission includes box lunch. Downtown store.

Christian Rupert. Sept 13 & 14: Informal modeling and refreshments served. Amy Milburn’s, 4024 Villanova Dr, 750-0358.

Roberto Cavalli. Sept 11 8 12: Personal appearance by designer and informal modeling. Lou Lattimore, 4320 Lovers Ln, 369-8585.

Robert Courtney. Sept 6 & 7: Personal appearance and informal modeling. Refreshments served. Amy Milburn’s, 4024 Villanova Dr, 750-0358.

Wardrobe Consulting. Sept 17-22: Bring in one of last year’s outfits for suggestions on updating. Brown bag lunch served from 11-2. Collections, 71 Highland Park Village, 528-8030.