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Time to Retire Those Jackets: Twin Sets Are Taking Over

September 17, 1998|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION WRITER

Every morning I walk into my closet and silently wave to my jackets. The last time a mania for organization possessed me, I graded them by color, a trick learned from costumer friends who supervise rooms full of garments (yes, occupational hazard, that about describes my closet). The jackets form a neat row--whites give way to beige, then brown, green, gray, black, navy, blue, purple, red. They hang, shoulders square and cuffs crisp, too proud to look forlorn. And yet, if truth be told, they're neglected. Because they don't get out much.

For years, the jacket was supposed to be the backbone of a wardrobe. Buy it well-tailored, experts advised, of the most expensive fabric you can afford. Mix it with skirts and slacks. Wear a good navy blazer with khakis or gray flannel trousers, getting as much use out of it as a man would. Nothing wrong with that thinking, and a shapely jacket can be flattering. But lately, it's seemed just so serious.

Women who don't work in banking or law, who aren't part of a corporate world in which dress codes are narrowly defined, are increasingly finding jacketless ways of getting dressed more appealing. After all, putting on a jacket, shirt and slacks is kind of a guy thing. When women first started working, they dressed like men to fit in and disguise their femininity. When enough time had passed and women at work were no longer anomalies, they felt comfortable abandoning what was essentially male drag.

So what's the alternative? "I think the twin set is the jacket replacement, especially in cashmere," said Jill Roberts, whose store at 920 Montana Ave. in Santa Monica offers a well-edited selection of the best of the season. Roberts admits she buys everything she wants for herself for her shop, and it's practically a jacket-free zone now. "In Southern California, where it doesn't get that cold at night, you can wear a twin set in the evening and be comfortable," she said. "I like lightweight coats too, that fall right below the knee. I'm selling a lot of those with skinny pants or a slim skirt and a turtleneck. I'm excited about the ankle-length skirts worn with a fitted turtleneck. They make everybody look skinny."

Cashmere cardigans and boat necks seem more appealing to Roberts than jackets. "No one ever asks for a jacket, and when I've bought them, no one ever wants them," she said."Unless it's a really interesting jacket, I think it isn't fashionable right now. It's kind of '80s."

Remember how much fun party dresses were when you were little? Maybe that's the trouble with jackets. They don't look like good-time clothes, and, since we're headingtoward a heck of a New Year's Eve party, subconsciously, we might already be starting to dress to celebrate. Not in fancy clothes, but not in anything that looks too businesslike either.

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