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Fall Foretold

August 11, 1996

Every six months, the fashion future unfolds on the runways of Europe and New York, where trends are turned over faster than tarot cards on Venice Beach. At the fall '96 collections unveiled last spring, not everything was a revelation--animal prints are back, and many designers have "discovered" brown. But there were plenty of unexpected twists and turns. Gucci's Tom Ford took his cue from the disco decade and reinvented a sophisticated jet-set style. Helmut Lang stuck to his minimalist principles but surprised with pretty floral dresses. And Giorgio Armani ventured out of neutral territory with head-to-toe color. So gaze carefully at this portfolio culled from Milan and Paris; it's a vision of the season to come.

COLOR. Can you say "loud"? Bright orange, lipstick red, cobalt blue and hot pink turned up the volume. From left: a knee-skimming coat over a tunic and narrow trousers; an organic-shaped felt coat; a spare flared knit dress.

JUNGLE PRINTS. Tiger stripes, leopard spots and other wild motifs were fit to print. From left: a zebra-print coat with matching pants; a bra top with matching skirt; a sheer belted dress.

PASTELS AND PLUM. Purple reigned at most shows with shades of lavender and eggplant on everything from suits to slip dresses. From left: a fitted wool jacket over a sheath; a flared wool coat over pants; a short coat over a satin slip dress.

PATTERNS. Designers picked a bumper crop of fanciful flowers and fruits. From left: a gathered gown; a long-sleeve knit shift; a full coat dress.

LONG AND LEAN. Don't cancel that gym membership: The silhouette of the season will be narrow. From left: a high neck satin column; a satin gown with slit; a shiny belted sheath.

LEATHER AND FUR. Leather pants or skirts over tall boots generated plenty of heat, but fur (fake and otherwise) left many cold. From left: faux leopard over leather pants; maxi-length shearling over velvet trousers.

EARTH TONES. Though black was still beautiful, brown was back with a vengeance. From left: a skirt and sweater under a fur coat; a strapless "cube" jumper over a blouse; a cashmere coat over a knit dress.

GLAMOUR. For evening, many of the collections crossed Vogue with Venturi and wound up with the slinky column. A silk evening gown with a floral motif.

KNITS. Pick a knit: Almost every conceivable garment got the sweater treatment. From left: a multihued loop-knit sweater over narrow knit pants; a sweater skirt and a color-block knit top; a knit mini with matching pouf-sleeve sweater.

MILITARY. Uniform details such as epaulets, flap pockets and gold buttons made jackets, coats and dresses stand at attention. From left: a fitted wool coat dress; wool pants with a matching belted jacket; a long belted jacket over a short skirt.

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