Stylish critters will flaunt fake fur A FUZZY FALL AHEAD


New York -- So long bran, hello cotton candy. Fashion has been on a bland and colorless diet for so long, designers have whipped up some treats. At the New York fall collections, which ended yesterday, there were the bubble-gum-quilted chubby and sherbet-sequined slip dresses by Isaac Mizrahi. There were Lifesaver candy stripe gowns, raspberry slush shifts and caramel topping leathers at Todd Oldham. Glazed candy apple red leather was one of the atomic fireballs at Marc Jacobs.

Artificial food colorings, yes, but it makes for a change.

Designers must have suspected that women would be hungry for color after two dark winters and the washed-out neutrals that are flooding stores now. Not to worry, forever-chic black remains a standout even in fall's more aberrant guises. Would you believe black rubber T-shirts and pants?

Trend-spotting got easy as each designer turned out the models every hour on the hour, day after day, for a week. Sorting trends out got tough as some designers started piling as many as five fashion-making ideas onto a single model. Here, then, is a breakdown of the many elements. Any and all combinations will be acceptable next fall.

The furry factor

Fake fur is so in that no self-respecting fashionette will dare venture out this fall without a touch of it. One suspects, however, that now that designers have stopped using real pelts, they are hunting Muppets and plush toy animals. Mizrahi's orangy snowman coat looks suspiciously like one of Big Bird's kin. Watch out, Barney!

Fake is the operative word, and some designers don't even try to faux it. They're using the shaggy fabric usually worn by stuffed animal prizes on carnival midways -- tacky.

Anna Sui made long, fuzzy, granny fox boas out of the stuff, complete with little ears, noses and tails. There were many luxurious fur substitutes, however, such as the gray Persian lamb Carolina Herrera used to trim suits and made into vests and skirts. Designers used fake fur at hem, collar, cuffs, hoods and as shaggy Sherpa boot tops. Anywhere there was a bare spot. Shearling, as close to real as designers want to get, is the luxury pelt and was shown made up in miniskirts and shorts. Seems like a major trade-off here -- warm tush, fat fanny.

Mongolian lamb, which looks like a shaggy critter with a perm, appeared in many colors in many collections as coats, vests and trim. Let's put feathers with furries. Marabou and ostrich, the wardrobe staples of old movie vamps, are back.

The fuzzy factor

Mohair was everywhere -- in the air, in the nose, shedding all over the front row, in virtually every collection. It was spun, knit and woven into some remarkable pieces. Beautiful light wraps, gossamer sweaters, soft plaid fringe kilts by Ralph Lauren. What made no sense, however, were the many mohair dresses such as those by Joan Vass and CK Calvin Klein. Not only did they make the models look like chubby ducklings, they had to itch like crazy. Mohair thong bodysuits, as shown by Laura Whitcomb, were almost too distressing to think about. Those goats must have a strong lobby.

Vicuna and alpaca were a different story -- not meant to touch skin but the stuff of light, rich coats with depth and density, such as the toppers from Escada.

Plaids and patterns

Name a traditional plaid, any plaid, and we saw it, plus some which are still waiting to be adopted by a clan.

Christian Francis Roth couldn't decide on a favorite clan, so he pleated as many as five different tartans into short kicky kilts.

The British Isles are the pattern source for fall, with country argyle squares and Fair Isle designs adapted to uptown flings. It's not your mother's college sweaters, but Fair Isle strips joined in a sequined slink by Todd Oldham.

The shape of things

Short, body-conscious and flared is the message for dresses, suits and coats.

That's as in flared coats over A-line dresses by Robert Danes; young, high-waisted and fluid princess flares by Nicole Miller, and junior miss full little skating frocks by Betsey Johnson.

Big puff pieces

Remember the down vest and parka you ordered from L.L. Bean? They're back with some citified alterations. Quilted storm coats, macks, bomber jackets, pea coats and empress robes in silk, velvet, vinyl, suede abound. For fall, designers have gone the woodland outfitters one better. Picture a sleeping bag quilted strapless evening gown closed in front with an industrial zipper. For divas who want to camp out.

Worth noticing

* Call 911 for fashion! Police and rescue worker clothes are setting off the style sirens. Navy meter maid dresses, highway patrol zip vests, bullet-proof vest bustiers and fireman coats are the fashion move to law and order.

* Shine on! Any fabric with gleam, sheen, shine, sparkle, glisten, reflective quality and obvious chemical enhancement is the thing to have for fall.

* Look back in wonder! You'll be seeing bustles, trains, tails and tailoring with back interest.

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