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Smart Substitutes

August 01, 1996|MIMI AVINS

Reports of the death of the suit have been greatly exaggerated. But alternatives that embody some of this fall's trends do have an appealing freshness. A hint of rebellion lurks in those eager to escape the safe confines of a jacket and matching skirt or pants. Narrow trousers and a sweater set neatly satisfy a desire to look more casual, less painstakingly put together. A woman in a luxurious cashmere wrap and plain pants could scarcely be accused of trying too hard.

Suits are reliable because they present themselves ready for action. So does a dress, which this season is likely to be ankle-length and knit, clinging to the body like a snug sweater. Since many of the suits presented for fall were as stiff and proper as military uniforms (and looked just like them), non-suits assumed an easy, sexy slouch.

In bypassing the suit, designers combined elements the way their customers do when they want to stretch their wardrobes. Karl Lagerfeld wasn't the first to toss a Chanel jacket over a long, clingy dress. But now that he's sent that look out on the runway, more women will adopt the formula. A denim jacket over a long, velvet dress. A leather cardigan topping an overgrown turtleneck. The possibilities are endless. Any combination that is unmatched, unforced and aesthetically hassle-free will suit.

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