Getting the Boot


New fall clothes need the kick of a boot to put them in their stylish place. Shoes make the fashionable woman, as those who have struggled through a difficult spring and summer shoe season have discovered. A heavier step is required now, and even women who managed to resist summer platforms will see the necessity of adding some weight to their shoe wardrobe. Light-hearted little flats and fragile heels which looked perfectly fine under last year's models lack the strength to hold up changing silhouettes.

Proportions have shifted from short and flippy showing lots of leg, to long and covered up. The shoe that is revealed under the added length and extra fabric should look substantial enough to carry the extra drama.

The search for boots can add an entertaining spin to the shopping experience because they haven't appeared in such variety on the fashion track since the plastic go-gos of the '70s. There have been rubbery duck boots and high-top athletics for ** practicality and comfort and a short run on cowboy boots for the stylish rebel.

But boots in the way of a fashion statement haven't been hot since matrons abandoned those shiny vinyl pull-ons with the clunky heel some 20 years ago.

As in every other fashion turn, the young put boot style into play. In the late '80s, punks, rockers and fashionettes took up the clunky, rube style of Doc Martens and wore them with everything from heavy metal to floaty vintage dresses. Black biker boots and jackets became the uniform of hip club-crawlers.

The looks scared the matching-pumps-and-handbag set, but not Karl Lagerfeld, the emperor of or cutting edge style. He worked ** up his versions of combat boots and showed them with precious evening gowns and clunky boots got the official stomp of high fashion.

At the American fall collections this spring, boots were everywhere putting the pump out of business. In keeping with the historical and costume looks of fall clothes, boot designs were lifted from old sources. The granny boot showed up in leather, suede, velvet and satin to be worn with longer, flowing daytime dresses and evening gowns. The riding boot was shown with narrow, equestrian-cut pants and longer cut hunting jackets. Romantic pirate and poet-inspired clothes were finished with thigh-high Puss-in-Boots designs.

The combat boot, in various degrees of aggressiveness, appeared with stark and simple black turnouts. Even the blue-collar lines of humble work boots were reinvented for hardy outdoor play.

Now, the look of the collections has hit the reality of department stores.

Boots are out there in all their variations and price points, but there is a common fashion direction.

Here are some ways to narrow the choices:

* The granny boot, and all its descendants, is the most adaptable as its feminine design can dress up or down without effort. Wear it with a long narrow skirt for the suffragette hobble, with a princess line dress for ankle appeal, and under pants to finish off a long line. The stylish granny can be built to any height of platform so allow agility, rather than fashion, to be the guide.

* The combat boot leads the younger fashion pack. It's easy to wear and walks comfortably. This year's fashion versions put it on an industrial rubber lug sole of varying thicknesses. It's great with miniskirts, jeans or slouch leggings. Although fashion magazines have shown it with frilly dresses and short-shorts, it's a boot look best left to the youngsters who invented it.

* The riding boot works beautifully with mid-calf skirts and coun

try dresses. It looks finest with narrow pants or leggings topped with the newer, long jackets that cover that saddle area. It's a classic boot without fashion hurdles.

* The flexible hiking and work boot is chic at its clunkiest. It's a boot that will replace sneakers as the weekend shoe, so fit, weight and comfort should be the priority.

* Women who are all thumbs and rush in the morning should count and consider the lacings and grommets in a laced-up boot. Getting the ties even and and pulled together comfortably may require extra minutes of fumbling and bending that are just not worth it.

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