Seasoned shoppers shop out of season. Some...


Seasoned shoppers shop out of season. Some of the best buys around now are to be found in the post-holiday clearance racks. Now that prices have been reduced by as much as 50 percent, slightly more adventurous choices can be justified. With an eye to what designers showed for the year ahead, here are fashion points that can carry a woman through this winter and next.

The diagonal

Anything with a suggestion of asymmetry or a slant is the newest line for '97. That could be a side-wrapped sweater or skirt, a one-shouldered jersey top or a side-buttoned jacket. Calvin Klein built slant into a stretch body blouse, but ideas of a more affordable but similar stripe could be found in the workout wear department. Designers are again enamored of Asia. Anything with a suggestion of the East will be a point of style next year. Look for Chinese silk brocades, mandarin collars, Suzie Wong shifts, kimono-style coats and wraps, and obi embroideries. Vivienne Tam combines the covered-up collar and transparency. Although pants predominated in designer lines this winter, skirts are on the way to making a comeback. The skirt to have next is long -- anywhere from mid-calf to ankle. It should have movement, and the ideal fabric choice would be a jersey or knit. The image here is from the house of Anne Klein, which produced its last collection this fall. Collectors take note. The sleek investment now is knits. Nothing bulky, nothing over-size. Modern styling skims the body. Women with a perfect figure could even consider knits that hug. Look for separates in sturdy double-knits, tops in silk or synthetic blends or dresses in fluid jersey. Here, a narrow tunic and trousers by Ellen Tracy.

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