Sometimes a fashion item comes out of hibernation and you have to think, should I go for it, or is it just a passing fancy?
The last time we wore ponchos, Kate Jackson was the Courteney Cox of the airwaves.
Ponchos resurfaced in the fall 1999 collections of Ralph Lauren, Max Azria for BCBG and Anna Sui. Then we saw them on "Ally McBeal," being worn by Nelle Porter (Portia de Rossi), who may very well be the luckiest character on TV. She gets to canoodle with the show's only sane bachelor, John "The Biscuit" Cage. And she's spared the "I'm a lawyer, no, I'm a slut" wardrobes of the rest of the cast. Instead, she's allowed to wrap herself in the warmest of outfits, including those ponchos. Even Calista Flockhart herself, out of her "Ally" character, has been seen in one.
Which tells us the poncho is indeed hot. But is this winter too late to buy one?
"I am surprised," said Kay Sides, owner of Hatch, who represents a number of young designers in her showroom at L.A.'s New Mart. She expected ponchos to "trend down," which is fashion-ese for "yesterday's mashed potatoes."
"We saw them last fall in a very big way," Sides said. And the customer was young and carefree. But ponchos have evolved for a more grown-up customer.
Longer, more luxurious ponchos are available from the likes of William B, Catherine Malandrino (a designer for Diane von Furstenberg) and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton. Prices range from $200 to $450, although Vuitton's will cost much more.
The newer ponchos are in cashmere, silk and weaves. And the handcrafted ones are still hot among younger women and teens.
"Everybody's buying them, ranging from young girls to our crossover customer [career woman]," said Harriet Sustarsic, executive vice president of merchandising for Charlotte Russe and Rampage, two chains that cater to young shoppers.
Rampage and Charlotte Russe started selling ponchos for back-to-school. "They've transcended back-to-school to holiday and now to spring," Sustarsic said.
Ponchos, first worn in Mexico, were popularized for high fashion by designer Bonnie Cashin, who died earlier this month. Cashin was said to have developed a taste for layered clothing because of the frequently changing weather in Northern California.