IF A WOMAN SELECTS JUSTone fashionable addition for her wardrobe this fall, most designers say that it should be a suit. And they are showing versions of the suit look for evening as well as day, in ways that are especially right for Southern California.
As always, designer labels command the highest prices. But because these collections set the standard for new silhouettes, colors, lengths and proportions, it's worth browsing through the boutiques and department stores' designer departments to gather research, if nothing else.
The big names in fashion are featuring suits with pants as one leading look. Many of the new pants, inspired by ski wear, are narrow. Some are made of stretchy fabric, just as ski pants are, but the stretch now has been added to luxury fabrics such as wool jersey. But there are other choices. Menswear-influenced pants still hold sway over women's wear, with the newest silhouette draped wider at the top and tapered at the bottom.
There is no shortage of skirts to choose from, but the range of shapes is somewhat limited. Most are classic suit skirts, straight, narrow and knee-length. The popular alternative is narrow-pleated skirts, worn at the knee or just above the ankle.
The most striking aspect of this season's suit is color. Black, a favorite for so long, has been abandoned in favor of pumpkin, mulberry, blue, olive, red and taupe--in subtle or strong variations.
Many Los Angeles women, including those on these pages, work in creative fields. Gallery owners and actresses, restaurateurs and chefs, graphic designers and writers generally have the freedom to dress as they wish. Not that women in the more conservative, corporate world should feel excluded. Color could be introduced to a conservative wardrobe gradually by mixing brighter jackets with darker skirts.
At first, this season's influx of warmer shades might seem overwhelming, but there have been signs of color for some time. Paris designers started the trend. Claude Montana has been steadily using lavender and brown in recent collections; Karl Lagerfeld has featured yellow; Azzedine Alaia has dabbled in soft green, and Yves Saint Laurent has consistently incorporated violet, auburn and gold.
If color is the brainchild of the French, so was the non-color, black. Paris-based Japanese designers Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons shocked the fashion world more than five years ago with post-nuclear collections in shades of cinder and ash. Despite the initial uproar, they all but wiped out color. Now, happily, the pendulum has swung back.
To offset the sometimes blocky effect of a matched suit in one shade, most designers are featuring unmatched options this fall. These can be more than just easy on the eyes. A two-tone outfit has a less formal quality and seems more in keeping with the Southern California style.
Some of the unmatched suits blend shades of the same color--burnt orange with tangerine, for example. New York designer Isaac Mizrahi offers this look, but he also shows monotone suits that he blends with accessories in related shades. Here, his orange pants are paired with a curry blouse. Among Los Angeles designers, Rick Beach and Patty Cappalli are mixing rust with brown for the unmatched-suit effect.
While some designers favor bright and bold colors, Milan's Giorgio Armani offers quieter, menswear colors for his women's collections. The unmatched Armani pantsuits shown on these pages mix stone green and pale yellow. Harriet Selwyn of Los Angeles combines taupe and cream.
In any color, the new proportions for fall are narrow but not tight. Jackets are cocoon-shaped, or they resemble the softest varieties of men's suit jackets. And usually, they fall well past the hips. Shoulder pads have been cut down, but they haven't been cut out altogether because even slightly broadened shoulders help create the illusion of a smaller waist.
This fall is a graceful season, without a lot of gimmickry. There is nothing Barbie doll-like or punk or puritanical about it. And even color is used in a non-aggressive way; it doesn't shout at you. Overall, the look is softer than it has been in some time.
Produced by Barbara Foley; photographed by Darryl Estrine / Onyx; stylist: Louise Frogley; assistant stylist: Adrianna Bernard.