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The jacket is key to fall's strong mood

September 06, 2009|BOOTH MOORE | FASHION CRITIC

This fall, structured jackets are kicking Michelle Obama's cardigans to the curb.

After several seasons of sweet and ladylike, fashion has found its edge. The jacket -- be it long, loose and boyfriend-style by Stella McCartney, shrunken into a schoolboy silhouette at J.Crew, sequin-dusted at Zara, cropped and rendered in crisp white from 3.1 Phillip Lim or studded and shoulder-padded at Balmain -- is the key to fall's strong mood.

And for good reason. No other piece of clothing, except perhaps a pair of heels, is as transformative. A jacket is an instant confidence-builder in uncertain times. It's a kind of body armor that makes you sit straight and walk tall, and it covers a multitude of imperfections.

This season, the jacket is at the center of the 1980s trend, the motorcycle trend, the aviator trend and the return-to-professional-dressing trend. A jacket need not be expensive to command respect. But there is nothing like a jacket to make you appreciate good design -- the elegant drape of a shawl collar, the gentle embrace of a shaped waist, the perfect peak of a shoulder.

If all this talk about jackets sets off a wave of nostalgia for Pat Riley, "Miami Vice" and Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl," remember: There is a difference in how jackets are being worn this fall and how they were worn in the Armani heyday of the '80s and '90s with pleated, full-legged trousers and corporate-looking, matchy-matchy pencil skirts.

The trick now is to balance a strong jacket with some leg. That could mean a bandage skirt (if you're 22), leggings, skinny jeans or even just a strappy shoe. Because this time around, women aren't just dressing like the boys, they're making jackets their own.

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booth.moore@latimes.com

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