This season’s strong suits

The scenario is a simple one: the helpless woman, flustered and aflutter, bats her tear-filled eyes, turns to her mighty man, swoons and collapses. Mighty Man rushes to her rescue, solves her problem and saves the day. Our hero. Well, pity that woman this season; she certainly won’t find many clothes that suit her. This is a season of strength, both of the clothes themselves and of the women who wear them. It isn’t a season for subtlety or “almost-statements.”


YVES SAINT LAURENT available at Sak-owitz Boutique.

CHANEL available at Neiman-Marcus.

PERRY ELLIS available at Marshall Field’s, Miss B, Neiman-Marcus, Sakowitz and Saks Fifth Avenue.

VALENTINO available at Sakowitz Boutique.

ANNE KLEIN available at The Carriage Shop, Clothes Horse (Fort Worth), Lester Melnick, Neiman-Marcus and Sanger Harris.

RALPH LAUREN available at The Carriage Shop, Lord & Taylor, Neiman-Marcus, The Polo Shop and Trouvé.

CALVIN KLEIN available at Barbara Robertson, The Carriage Shop, Clothes Horse(Fort Worth), Dillard’s (Fort Worth), theGazebo, Lily Dodson, Marshall Field’s,Neiman-Marcus and Sanger Harris.

It was bound to happen sooner or later-this season with direction. We’ve seen all the obvious signs developing: the narrower silhouette that began to surface last fall; the growing influence of menswear; the surge of black and white; the re-emergence of real sophistication. At last, after drifting through several seasons that were sprinkled with hints of direction, we’ve finally stumbled upon a real winner.

Actually, it’s a season with two directions-both very distinct, very strong. At one end are the Japanese: loose and free-spirited, emphasizing oversized, uncomplicated “undressing” At the other end are most European and American designers, giving us the sleek and sophisticated suit, a glimpse of which we’ll show you on these five pages.

But no longer does “suit” mean the standard, matching, dark-toned straight skirt and blazer with simple blouse. Far from it. What you’ll see doesn’t really qualify as a suit per se; it’s more of a suit look. A more relaxed “separates” approach has been borrowed from sportswear, which means that each element-skirt, jacket and blouse-must be strong

enough to hold its own.

Logically enough, jackets-whether they be square-shouldered and strong at the top, falling straight from there; short and cropped at (or above) the waist; or long and collarless, falling below the hip-are essential. Many of them were inspired by menswear and can be found in all sorts of bold checks, nubby tweeds, graphic plaids and soft flannels. Consequently, texture is very important this fall. The key is in mixing patterns, color and proportion in new and interesting ways.

Skirts, overall, are slimmer-but not uncomfortably so-and shorter, but when they’re paired with cropped jackets (most noticeably, those from Perry Ellis), they’re high-waisted and narrow at the top, but get fuller and softer toward the bottom. And since the basis of the look is the skirt and blouse, the blouse is very important. If you choose one that’s extremely well-designed, with a generous cut and luxurious feel, the skirt and blouse can easily stand on their own (or work well when topped by a long, slim vest).

You’ll see jackets paired with pants, too- also menswear-inspired. They’re really quite similar to men’s trousers, pleated and full at the bottom, only softened a bit. Expect them in menswear fabrics, too, especially wool and flannel.

Once again, black and white play a major role in both day wear and evening wear. But you’ll also see a lot of grays for day (especially anthracite), as well as several dark combinations-grays with black and navys with black. There’s also an explosion of brights- fuchsias, purples, blues, greens and reds- usually in a single piece (such as a glove or jacket) meant to punch-up an overall black-and-white look underneath.

And everyone’s wild about animal prints this season. They’ve pounced into prominence in every category from sweaters and blouses to shoes, belts, purses, hats, gloves and scarves. They work best when used as an accessory to wake up an otherwise dark, muted look. Count on them for an unmistakable sense of whimsy. Another animal influence: fur-both real and fake-used as a trim on everything from cashmere sweaters to knit gloves.

The news in shoes is pumps-of the snake-skin kind, usually black or dark colors. Other options: hefty man-tailored oxfords and flats to best complement the more casual menswear looks, and short leather or suede boots, often fur-trimmed or lined. And as for hose, you’ll see more colors, textures and patterns than ever before. During the day, they’ll be either opaque or semi-opaque; at night, they’ll be sheer with all kinds of glittery, sexy touches.

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