The message from designers this fall is that everything goes better with boots.
"Many of the best fall looks end in a boot, from heavy work versions to the over-the-knee styles to sexy ankle boots," says New York-based Donna Karan. Calvin Klein shows them with everything from monastic clothes to flowing, sheer skirts. Ralph Lauren pairs his Russian-themed tapestry coats and pants with work boots.
"The fall silhouette is long and fluid, and there's a lot of fabric, so you need more on your feet to balance," explains June Rau, fashion director for Nordstrom in Los Angeles, where boot prices range from about $100 to $250.
For women who have rejected boots as too clunky, too young or too casual, this season offers more sophisticated, lighter versions.
"Young customers want the more masculine (styles), while more sophisticated customers want feminine," says footwear designer Warren Edwards, whose line, Susan Bennis Warren Edwards, is available at Neiman Marcus. His velvet combat boot satisfies both tastes.
The boot of the season, though, is a lace-up that hugs the foot and ankle, stopping just short of mid-calf.
"The real fashion customer has already got combat boots," says Michael Stachowski, the shoe buyer and manager at Fred Hayman Beverly Hills. "Granny boots and spats are \o7 the \f7 boots for fall. They have either thick heels or romantic Louis heels shaped like spools." Materials include luxurious fabrics such as velvet, satin and grosgrain and kidskin.
At Vin Baker, a Santa Monica shoe boutique, the best sellers are granny and riding boots. The latter have been reinterpreted from heel to toe, store owner Joe Peach says.
"The toe on the old riding boot is pointed and the heel is flat. This new version has more of a man-tailored toe and a 2-inch block heel. It fits tightly around the calf and is higher, ending just below the knee."
The beauty of the boot picture this season, says Nathalie Marciano, a footwear designer for the Los Angeles company Charles David, is its simplicity. She suggests tucking lean corduroy pants, classic riding pants or leggings into the tops of equestrian or ankle boots.
In instances when there is a gap between short boots and skirt hems, textured hosiery fills in quite nicely.
Donna Karan recommends rolling slouchy socks over the tops of short boots. Her DKNY textured knit legwear is inspired by sweater patterns--cable, ribbed and argyle. Wolford of Austria, carried in I. Magnin and Ice, features midweight opaques and textures that work well under sheer clothing.
One of the season's big ideas looks familiar: footless, over-the-knee leg warmers. What removes these from the "Flashdance"-era versions is their recycled cottons, rugged textures and natural hues. They look best worn over contrasting textured tights and boots. Hue, one maker of thigh-high tights, even came up with a new name for them: \o7 thights.\f7