KEEPING IN STEP Accessories move in new directions


Let's be honest. Only a few of us are going to be wearin yellow stockings and red suede pumps and carrying a purple purse this fall.

The look requires an incredible eye for color, a suitable occasion -- and a sizable measure of self confidence.

"It's not easy," says Nancy Sachs, fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue. "When I do fashion shows and I lay out everything ahead of time, all those different colors don't always work together. It can look bizarre."

This mixing of boldly colored stockings and shoes is a "fun trend," she says, "but it's not for every day or every place."

Bright hues may be the most evident change in accessories, but it's not the only news. Footwear is moving in a new direction with boot-inspired shapes. Stockings have a new look with patterns and texture. And the brooch is making a return.

Getting the boot

Boots are flooding the marketplace -- from ankle-cropped to thigh-high. In everything from suede to satin to shiny patent leather.

"I haven't seen this many boots since the late '60s and '70s," says Michael Azzolini of Hess Shoes.

The shape of this fall's boots is quite different, however. "The toe and heel today are much more feminine and not as heavy," he says, adding that next spring we can expect to see a lighter interpretation of another '60s favorite -- the platform shoe.

Unlike the more rugged boots in seasons past, this year's boots "are much sexier," says Ms. Sachs. "They hug the leg."

The epitome of the sleek fitting boot is a novel creation called "the boot stocking," which combines shoes and stockings in one. The shoes are actually built inside a pair of very dense Lycra hose.

"It's been a phenomenal seller," says Ms. Hart. "It emphasizes the leg in a very glamorous way and looks good with the very clean-lined look of clothes today. It's a continuation of the lean, tapered look of a catsuit."

Mr. Azzolini, who carries the boot stocking in flat and mid-heel heights, says maintenance is not as tricky as it might seem. "You just hand wash it with Ivory," he says.

This year's emphasis on color means a great many boots in unusual shades such as fuchsia, forest green and taxicab yellow, although Mr. Azzolini says "the No. 1, 2 and 3 most popular color" remains black.

One of the season's best-selling boots is a convertible suede boot from Anne Klein that offers customers a choice of colors. At first glance it appears to be an over-the-knee boot divided horizontally into four panels -- yellow, orange, fuchsia and red. But zippers divide each section, so the individual color can be detached to make the boot any size, all the way down to a fuchsia ankle boot.

Pumping it up

The tremendous influence of the boot this season is also evident in the great many pumps on the market with covered-up fronts. When worn with a pair of trousers, these new shoes could be mistaken for boots.

"The boot pump is the most important new shoe shape," says Joanne Hart, accessories buyer for Macy's. "It can be worn with jeans, leggings, a suit or dress."

Both high and low heels abound, but Mr. Azzolini says the height of a shoe's heel is not as important an issue this season as the shape.

The newest ones, he says, are "cone shaped or hook heels. And the hourglass heel is becoming stronger."

Whether the footwear in question is a pump or a boot or some version thereof, suede is the fabric of choice for the fashionable this fall.

A leg up

"Legwear is one of the hottest categories right now," says Ms. Hart. "Whether it's leggings or tights, what's important is texture or color. The newsiest is a heavy tight with a sheen. Consumers were nervous about it last season and kept it just for evening, but now they're more comfortable about wearing it for day and evening."

The idea of stockings in hot shades like fuchsia or bright red is also catching on.

A pair of black fishnet hose is another way to give an outfit a '90s update. "A fun way to wear it," says Ms. Hart, "is the way Chanel showed it, with an opaque bright underneath. You take yellow, orange, turquoise or fuchsia hose and layer black fishnet overtop."

In the bag

Texture comes into play again when handbags enter the picture.

The compact, structured bags so popular for the last couple of seasons continue to be a dominant shape, but they look a little different this year in satin or suede or even wool houndstooth checks in black and white.

The most popular handles are bamboo or pearl, says Ms. Sachs, and chain straps remain good sellers.

Pondering her own possible handbag purchase for fall, she says "I've been thinking about buying a smaller one in suede -- the kind you carry in your hand. I don't feel quite comfortable with it, but I like the finished look of it."

For those who're pondering the old rule about matching shoes and handbag, Ms. Sachs, says, "I totally believe in having a leather bag and suede shoes!"

Getting pinned

The biggest news in jewelry is not the necklace or earring but the return of the pin -- the old-fashioned brooch.

The pearl necklaces and gold chains of previous seasons are getting updated with larger, chunkier gold chains. And drop earrings continue to lose ground to the bold button earrings.

But it's the use of pins that gives a completely new jewelry feeling.

"It's part of the whole '40s inspiration that's starting to hit -- the way women used to wear a pin on a sweetheart neckline," says Ms. Hart.

"The fun thing with pins is to use them in unexpected places -- on the waistband of pants for the menswear look or on a crisp white cotton shirt."

Used with a little imagination, says Ms. Sachs, "pins can individualize something like a simple black suit and add tremendous personality to your clothes."

Complementing and contrasting colors

Contrasting fuchsia hose with fire engine red shoes can be a fetching look -- if you know how to pull it off.

"You really do need to take a few extra minutes," says Nancy Sachs, fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue.

"If I were going to wear colored stockings," she says, "I'd look for a color in the garment that I wanted to make pop -- and it wouldn't necessarily be the most dominant. Maybe there's a trim in orange or I might want to carry an orange bag or orange gloves."

If you're afraid your orange stockings might look too much like Halloween when paired with black shoes, consider a metallic shoe, such as a bronze.

"It's a softer look than black," says Ms. Sachs, and "you could use gold jewelry to bring it all together -- or maybe the dress might have gold buttons or a wide gold zipper."

Black shoes could work well, however, with, for instance, red stockings and Anne Klein's pink and red windowpane suit. "I've also seen the suit worn with a red leg and red shoes," she says.

If you should fall in love with a pair of purple suede shoes, you have a number of options. "You could wear them with all black [stockings and dress], or with a red or shocking pink dress and a nude leg for early fall," says Ms. Sachs. When the weather gets cooler and opaque hose won't feel too warm, she suggests picking up on the monochromatic trend and wearing the purple shoes and fuchsia dress with a pair of purple opaque hose. (The colorful leg this season is always opaque, never sheer.)

When scouting for complementary accessories, Ms. Sach advises, "definitely take the dress with you. Or at least a swatch you saved from the hem when you get it shortened. Very few people can carry color in their minds."


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