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The Graying of America : The Old Standby--in a Variety of Shades--Makes a Comeback This Fall in Suits With a Twist on Tradition

July 23, 1993|WILLIAM KISSEL

This fall, the only color in menswear that matters is gray--be it deep charcoal, heather, steel or pearl. The trend is not a reflection of the bleak Southern California economy, suit designers say, but a rediscovery of the traditional gray suit's versatility.

Donna Karan, for example, takes a taupe-gray, chalk-striped wool flannel suit to extremes by pairing it with a leather cobbler's apron. She says the best jacket silhouette for fall is "long and linear with smaller, rounded shoulders." Trousers are reminiscent of 1940s Hollywood style, Karan adds, "cut high-waisted, creaseless and cuffed."

Calvin Klein does his pin-striped gray flannel suit in two pieces, with an optional loose vest that squares off below the waist, and shows it with banded-collar shirts.

And Andrew Fezza, in his lower-priced line called Assets, uses gray, black and white in patterned suits with double-breasted jackets.

In California, designers have been adapting their fall suits for warmer climes, for men who like the look but can't stand the bulk of gray flannel. Emil Rutenberg weaves taupe- and peach-colored yarns into his gray one- and two-button designs in wool and wool-rayon, making them appear softer and lighter. Richard Tyler uses lightweight gray wool faille in his customary Edwardian-style jackets and trousers.

For men who can get away with a bit of whimsy in their workaday wardrobes, there are plenty of ways to tweak the gray: with a Northwest-inspired twist--a casual and colorful plaid shirt--by Ralph Lauren; a mismatched shirt-and-tie combination by Garrick Anderson; or a crisscrossing silk scarf, worn ascot-like and tucked into trousers, by newcomer Anthony McIntosh, whose label is Duende.

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