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FALL FASHION SPECIAL

Before--and After--the Fall

August 25, 1996|Judy Prouty | Style Editor

There were plenty of reasons to leave balmy Los Angeles last spring to watch women draped in wool and velvet trail up and down a New York runway, and one of them was to revel in the fall fashion buzzwords. Sleek, darling, sleek and clean; loooong and classy, indeed, almost classic; lean, yes, certainly, modern and functional, but in a glamorous way. Truly. Another reason was to preview the clothes up close. Made of modern, synthetic fabrics or sumptuous material such as cashmere and panne velvet, this season's styles hug the curves but never bind (a miracle of technology, I assure you). While neutrals such as beige, white and black and autumnal tones of pumpkin, forest green, sienna and berry suggest luxury, decoration, for the most part, is superfluous. More important is fit--the way a four-button jacket follows the body, the snug armholes on a sinuous knit dress, a coat with a streamlined bodice and small shoulder. There are departures from the long-and-lean aesthetic, of course, but most of them--like the Bloomsbury dowager look and thrift-shop prints--are the Edsels of the season. Unfortunate.

Pants are cut sleek and long, with a flat front and slight flare, often worn with a jacket demure and narrow or fitted and military-inspired. In leather, the pants cling closer and take on a jet-set swank when paired with a turtleneck sweater under a faux fur coat. (Leitmotif: late '70s, early '80s.) Coats are big--from maxi to knee-length reefer, from shearling to ankle-length cardigan (the latter is cozy and lightweight for chilly L.A. nights.) It is a pants season, but some skirts and dresses stretch well past the knee. Worn with stack-heeled shoes or high boots, they're as comfortable as pants. The evening gown of choice is a column, Often of jersey, sensuous velvet, chiffon or sweater knit, the simple lines and flash of skin--from a cutout or a bare back--are provocative without saying "Come hither."

All in all, the fall fashions this year translate into relaxed but polished looks that mesh nicely with life in Southern California. Just repeat the mantra: Long and lean, sleek and slim and utterly gorgeous.

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