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What Autumn Will Feel Like This Year : Fabrics: Touchable textures--such as mohair, fake furs and velvet--are in for fall.

August 25, 1994|FRANCINE PARNES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Even as the late summer sun approaches melting point, fuzzy mohair sweaters and slick patent leather boots in department store windows signal cooler days ahead.

Those who have yet to tackle spring cleaning may find the approach of fall too much. But get a grip. Forget that mohair sounds itchy and patent sounds sticky and start thinking about plugging the gaps in your fall wardrobe.

Touchable textures are important this season. So if you're itching to be stylish, grab a mohair sweater or skirt, a nubby boucle suit, a velvet A-line dress or a cuddly swing coat in shearling, real or faux.

"Anything that feels great to the hand is selling," says Benny Lin, fashion director of Macy's in New York. "Like a cropped long-sleeved mohair cardigan or crew neck, preferably in ivory. Or a schoolgirlish tweed jumper in tones of gray, worn with a crisp white cotton shirt."

Early winners, Lin says, include vests and cropped pullovers in mohair such as those from Retango and Anna Sui.

Synthetics are also stylish. Plush, frankly fake furs in leopard, zebra and pony are doing well.

"There's a wonderful Chanel black and white faux fur cropped jacket and matching hat that's selling, as well as a private-label black faux beaver vest with red trim," says Adrienne Hoyer, senior vice president for designer apparel at I. Magnin in San Francisco.

Super-shiny vinyl, with its bad-babe appeal, is fall's new leather. It's doing well in a range of clothing and accessories, from motorcycle jackets to mini backpacks.

And for a bit of evening glitz, shimmery metallic slip dresses are selling.

"The A-line slip dress plus T-shirt is a very important idea for both casual and social occasions," says Hope Brick, fashion director for Foley's in Houston. "What makes it new for fall is the addition of shine, in slick silver or gold, teamed with a georgette T-shirt."

Knee-length skirts look new at Calvin Klein and DKNY and are expected to give short and sassy skating skirts competition as the fashionable length of the season.

Retailers say it's not that this mid-length is news but that top fashion houses find it appealing.

"What might seem advanced for the younger, trendier audience has always been a wardrobe mainstay for the bulk of our consumers," Brick says.

Shortie kilts in plaids and solids are doing well at Joslins in Denver.

"We're selling to those customers who like the concept of a fun, flirty skirt," says Christine Kern, Joslins' fashion coordinator.

Plaids go beyond kilts at Foley's.

"We have seen plaid pleated miniskirts begin to sell," Brick says, "and plaid backpacks have been selling phenomenally, as the handbag of the '90s. The tartan aspect makes a whole lot of sense for fall '94."

Color your plaids in shades of brown, which retailers are calling the new black. Or go for high-voltage hues either in plaids or plains.

"We're coming off of several seasons of non-colors," Brick says. "Now we're seeing a total surge in our business as it relates to color. We are anticipating that red will be one of the most important colors of fall. And hot brights are already selling."

Even pants in plaids and brights are considered in good taste if you have the figure.

"We are selling true menswear-inspired trousers in tartans, houndstooth and windowpane," Brick says. "And women are finding that a pantsuit is a smart look this season."

Jackets continue as a major player, preferably one with a nipped waist, either cropped or long, says Hoyer of I. Magnin.

"Anything colorful in a wool jacket is selling," she says. "It could be shocking pink or bright green or yellow. A lot of customers are viewing this as a way to perk up a wardrobe."

Footwear has its highs and lows. For those not up to teetering, flat patent leather Mary Janes are ready for another spin. Boots are mostly lower-heeled, too, ranging from knee-high riding boots to ankle-high shoe boots.

But what looks most modern is higher heels, even skinny stilettos.

"Something you must have this season," says Benny Lin of Macy's, "is a great new pair of high heels, preferably in black patent leather with a three-inch heel.

Are they selling? Yes.

But, Lin adds, "whether women will really wear them is another issue."

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