Cooling Economy Influences Fall ’06 Fashion: Somber Palette, Leggings, Skinny Jeans & More

As the global economy twists and turns in its current state, pounded by rocky stock markets, global warming, national and international catastrophic weather conditions, plus the very real, everyday fear of international terrorism, perhaps that state of flux is reflected in, of all places, this year’s Fall fashion offerings. From top of the line designers all the way to WalMart, KMart, Target and Kohl’s, Fall 2006 fashions offer a startlingly sombre, no-frills look reflective of today’s retail consumer’s mindset.

This year’s color palette features shades of brown, gray, olive, eggplant (i.e., purple) and rust, plus the always-fashionable black. Gone are the gaudy, overly done, over the top Dolce & Gabbana and Versace ‘more is more’ looks. ‘Over the top’ is ‘over the hill’ for this season’s fashionistas. And that, my friends, is actually a very good thing.

There are several staples that you MUST have in your closet this fall, ones that will carry you not only into the fall fashion season but will also last well into winter, too. The top item to stock up? Leggings, tights, whatever you choose to call them, they’re red hot this season. Many of the styles shown are footless leggings which may be left rolled down at the cuff, or neatly rolled up. Among the most popular the capri style leggings, especially the ones which have absolutely adorable bows which tie at the back of the leg. Leggings can be found in a variety of fabrics, from nylon to cashmere. (I purchased a pair of Prada cashmere leggings – used, of course, but in fabulous shape – on Ebay for under $40.00 Cashmere! Leggings! Prada! Does it get any better than that!) I also managed to snare a pair of Chanel cashmere leggings on Ebay as well, but for substantially more than I paid for the Prada ones.

The Chanel are brand new with tags (originally $1600 at Neiman Marcus!), cashmere and one size fits all. The Prada leggings are a size small, but with enough stretch in these well-made leggings that they can fit both my 5’5″ and my 5’11” daughters. Put in an Ebay search for “Leggings” on their Search feature, and you’ll receive daily/weekly emails to yourself indicating when a new listing has come up on the site. You can select how long you’d like your search to run, and can modify it for various designers (i.e., Chanel, Prada, Burberry, Marc Jacobs) and also by size. Actually, putting in a search on Ebay for any of fall’s newest fashions – or anything else your heart desires! Urban Outfitters offers a wonderful selection of leggings and tights on line (www.urbanoutfitters.com), and at some pretty fabulous prices as well: two for $20 for at least three different types and styles of leggings and tights. Another place to check is www.bluefly.com for some great deals as well. “Discount” retailers such as WalMart, KMart, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx also offer tights and leggings in stock for fall. Your choices in color and size may be more limited, but prices will reflect that. If you’re willing to literally ‘dig deep’ into their stock, you’ll most likely come up with some pretty cute, off the wall, unusual shades and patterns that you might not find anywhere else.

What else is hot for Fall? Skinny, skinny jeans, a must-have for every closet. Some of the more popular brands include Miss Sixty, Seven for All Mankind, Free People, Abercrombie and Fitch, and others. Again, check Ebay and other auction sites for some good deals. (Don’t forget to start a search for the brand and size you want.) It’s often hard unless you know exactly how each designer’s brand will fit you to buy online. Unless you’re absolutely certain of the size(s) offered, whether it be on Ebay or any other auction site, make sure that there’s a return policy. A great price of $59 for skinny jeans that retail elsewhere for $270 may be a total waste of money if the jeans don’t fit – especially true with the skinny jeans. Most popular colors? Black, gray or dark, indigo blue. For those of us in the ‘soccer mom’ generation, there’s also a great new brand called “Not Your Daughters’ Jean”, which can be found online at a number of sites. These jeans have a pateted waist system guaranteed to make the wearer look significantly slimmer while still offering comfort. NYDJ retail anywhere from $150 to $270 and come in a variety of sizes, colors and styles. (I found several pairs on Ebay with a starting auction price of $59!). While these may not be the trendiest of trendy skinny jeans, they are worth the price for the ‘skinny girl’ feel you get while wearing them!

Okay, we’re getting a general picture here of a slim, elongated silhouette. What to wear at the bottom of this silhouette? It’s the comeback of the ballet flat! I’ve been fortunate enough to purchase over a dozen pairs of used and brand new in box Chanel ballet slippers ranging in price from $16.05 (yes, and 100% authentic as well!) to $225.00 on Ebay. Again, put out a search on Ebay for the designer and size you’re looking for. (While Chanel’s ballet flats are the favorites in our household of a mom and two girls, Kate Spade, Coach, Miu Miu and Prada also make some exquisitely beautiful flats in a variety of sizes.) The best ones are buttery soft leather. (If you are buying new Chanels on Ebay, make sure you get the whole package – box which is properly marked, shoe dust bags, and Chanel authenticity cards for your purchase. If you’re tempted by a pair of gorgeous Chanels which are slightly used but have the Chanel label on the insole and the bottom of the shoe at a great price – anywhere from $40 to $150, depending upon color, size and condition – go for it! They’ll last you into the next generation at least!) Urban Outfitters offers brand new ballet and skimmers ranging in price from $28 to $48 a pair in a great selection of colors and styles, and you can’t beat those prices. Don’t forget to check out Target, WalMart and PayLess Shoes as well. Ballet flats are incredibly comfortable, and you can wear them with those equally comfortable tights and those skinny jeans; try them with a mini skirt too for a different look. Long live the season of the flat shoe!

Sack, messenger and shoulder bags are still in fashion, particularly those in black, shades of brown, rust and dark gold. You can go high end with Coach, Prada, Mulberry, Chloe, St. John, Burberry and the classic Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags, if you’re willing to pay the price. Remember, less is more this year, so don’t go for an overly fancy, highly buckled bag. Fabric options run from denim to suede to genuine leather to knockoff designs and fabrics. Choose a bag in a neutral color that’s large enough for work and play, and you should be able to get away with purchasing just one bag this season – as long as it’s a sack, messenger, shoulder or tote! Check out department store handbag sales, consignment shops for some awesome values, www.bluefly.com, www.ebay.com, and other web sites for ideas as to what your budget will allow. There’s also a great online site for one of New York City’s best-kept secrets: www.zappos.com! They have a continually huge selection of sale and clearance shoes and handbags, shipping is free, and they have an awesome return policy. If you love Uggs, bookmark that zappos’ web site!

This season’s tops have one thing in common: they’re all looooong! Tunics reign, as do oversized Henleys and blouses. The oversized tops (meaning that they’re significantly longer rather than looser on the body) drape just great over skinny jeans and leggings for an overall slimming, put-together look. Some of our favorites include Abercrombite & Fitch, Urban Outfitters (where longer sweaters and tunics range from $38 to $50 in a great selection of styles and fabrics), Marc by Marc Jacobs, Prada, American Eagle, and the I.N.C. house line of Macey’s. Styles range from bohemian, boat neck, baby doll, plaids, Peter Pan, ruffled blouses to crew necks. Again, the idea here is for your top piece – whether it be a blouse, shirt, jacket, tunic, even a camisole – to be longer in length to offset the straight, skinny look of the jeans and tights.

Other cute ideas for fall that you can incorporate into your wardrobe include cuffed shorts – yes, shorts! – in solid, tweed or pinstripes. They look adorable over those leggings and tights! Earrings continue to be chandelier style, although in a more subtle vein: silvers, monochromatic colors rather than bright, sparkly or filled with cubic zirconias or cheap, shiny stones. Another accessory that is very popular for fall are cuff bracelets. Again, in darker shades of olive green, brown, rust or caramel, they really offset the elongated fall look with their chunky style. And don’t forget the shrug! You can most likely add whatever shrugs you already have in your closet into this season. One of the hotter looks are long sleeved shrugs that tie at the waist, a la Angela’s design on “Project Runway”. (Did you know that you can purchase the ‘Project Runway’ designs – the REAL, actual designs done by each contestant in their finished (or unfinished, in some cases – state? Go to www.bravotv.com, and click on the link to Project Runway. They have a separate category for online auctions for each of the designer’s creations for each week of the competition. I think that Vincent’s ‘Twiggy’ outfit may still be up for bid!)

Also increasingly popular are shirt dresses, especially the ones that are short and can be worn over leggings and tights. Pea jackets and hooded tops are back in style, offering a sensible alternative to fur, suede and more bulky fabrics. An interesting look as well are military jackets (either cropped or regular length, in denim or other fabrics, in darker hues) and tweed coats or jackets (also cropped, three-quarters’ length, or full length). While well-made tweeds by designers such as Larry Levin may be a bit costly, depending upon where you buy it, they’re a functional look that really is always in style.

The economy is tougher than many of us realize or are willing to accept; this season’s fall clothing line reflects a true sense of style that is economically viable. Any of the items listed above can be purchased at a variety of stores, within a large price range. This season’s fashions are sturdier, more care-friendly, and much easier this year to mix and match. As for the darker color palette? It’s slimming, and not necessarily ‘depressing’ . You can add a splash of color with that chunky bracelet you found on Ebay or at KMart for a dash of color; long, strikingly beautiful earrings don’t have to cost a fortune but can add that touch of glitz you love! Go for it, girl – this fall’s fashions are yours for the taking, no matter what your wallet or credit card statement tells you. There’s something for everyone come September!

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