STYLE POINTS

The Baltimore Sun

Even those who aren't privy to the annual insiders' peeks at all the new designs coming down the runways of New York, Paris and Milan can look around for themselves and see that there are more than a few trends that will be big this fall.

Fashion experts call the season's bevy of style choices a good thing. Women - and men - they say, can decide which of the many trends works best for them.

But some, understandably, may find it all a little overwhelming.

Is volume in? Yes, but so are body-conscious clothes.

1960s influence? Check. 1970s influence? Check. 1980s influence? Check, check.

Skinny jeans or wide-leg trousers? Either will do.

Is this a season of dark neutrals, or a colorful one? Actually, it's a little of both.

"What's out, what's in - it's all relative," says celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch, who has dressed some of Hollywood's top stars.

Lucky celebrities have Bloch and others like him to help figure out what's relatively in and what's relatively not.

What are the rest of us to do?

We asked some experts to help us narrow fall's fashion down to just a few must-haves. And just to make it even easier, we broke it down into three categories: Young women, working women and men.

We know. We're so helpful. Shop now. Thank us later.

Young Woman

For those blessed with flawless complexions and metabolisms that just won't quit, this is the season for you.

So much of fall is coming "back to the body," as the experts say - which means all those baby-doll and trapeze tops and egg-shaped bubble dresses are slowly taking a back seat. Instead, pencil skirts are back, corsets are in, as are slender dresses, skinny leg coverings (such as tights) and minidresses.

"It's not so blouson and baggy," says Andrea Kaplan, contemporary buyer at Octavia in Pikesville. "It's very sexy, sleek and beautiful."

It's also a season of bright "pops" of color, in accessories as well as dresses, jackets and even jeans.

"For the young people, they've actually brought back flavored jeans," says Toni James, owner of Katwalk Boutique in Mount Vernon. "The most popular colors are red, royal blue, hot pink and purple."

If pink jeans seem too fashion-forward, wear your color in a bright accessory.

"All the major designers are doing something neon," Kaplan says. "Neon green, yellow, purples. It can be a belt, it can be a scarf, it can be a bag. It's almost like a 1980s reference."

And don't forget the embellishments this fall. Studs, zippers, chunky stones, grommets and paillettes. Rope, rocker and motorcycle details - all are in, especially for the young woman who can afford to be a little daring.

"Up the glitz factor," Kaplan says.

THE MUST-HAVES

1) Anything in a bright color. Kaplan recommends a purple patent leather handbag or belt. James suggests Jordache jeans.

2) Embellished jeans or jackets. Leather is back in a big way. Motorcycle jackets, even in denim or cotton, look cool. Studs and shine are in.

3) Something sleek or short. Try a pleated skirt or a minidress.

"Minidresses over that black legging, so there's nothing vulgar or obscene, with a little bit of hardware on the dress," says Michael Fink, Saks Fifth Avenue vice president and women's fashion director. "I think that's a really great young look."

Working Woman

Fall's general trends speak to this sophisticated woman who can't live her life in embellished jeans and a corset top.

"I call it the three Ps," says Fink. "Polished, poised and put-together." This means there's more emphasis on tailoring than in recent seasons, more structure, even in accessories, such as handbags.

"It's tailored dressing, but it's not fuddy-duddy dressing," Fink says. "It's a cropped jacket with a high-waisted skirt, and an opaque leg. Take that right on down to the new shoe bootie or a fabulous high-heeled pump. When you go out the door, you're putting on your pair of gloves and a structured handbag. It's a long and lean silhouette; it's about being put together."

Adding a few years since college ended might also have added a few pounds. This season is a great time to show off those new (or not so new) womanly curves.

"People are really trying to show their femininity," says Sarah Logan, director of merchandising for eluxury.com, an online designer store. "A lot of designers showed beautiful, tailored pieces, making it about feminine dressing again. Especially Marc Jacobs. He showed a lot of throwbacks to tighter pants, slimmer trousers and lot of to-the-body shapes in dresses, which I think is good for women. It shows off curves and realistic proportions."

Finish your polished look with a funkier element - a high-heeled shoe bootie, which looks especially cool with black tights.

"Studded leather ankle boots are back this year," says James. "A lot of the designers are doing that. And even some of the lower-end designers are knocking off the higher-end ones to bring down costs."

THE MUST-HAVES

1) A slender dress, in either gray, black or a bright color.

"If you're dressing for men, I would say most men want to see a figure," says Fink, of the snugger silhouette for fall. "But we're not talking skin-tight, we're talking about clothes that are tailored to follow the contour of the body."

2) A cropped jacket, sweater or cape with interesting shoulder detail. Leather looks fresh this season, as do cropped sleeves.

3) A pair of shoe booties and a pair of gloves.

"Gloves are essential for women," Logan says. "Opera length, scrunched down, shorty gloves at the wrist. We're seeing a lot of punches of color in gloves, from chartreuse and navy, golds and greens and red. It's a nice way to put color into the wardrobe."

Men's Fashion

It's all about the suit this season, guys. Ask any expert and they'll tell you: suits, suits and more suits.But don't get comfortable with the ones you have in your closet. They're probably a little too roomy.

"For the next couple of seasons, modern is the word we're using to describe menswear," says Edward Steinberg, president and owner of J.S. Edwards in Pikesville. "Things are getting a little narrower, shoulders are coming in, shirts are becoming a little more tapered."

But don't be alarmed, Steinberg says. This is not the ultra-skinny Italian look you see in cutting-edge magazines.

"We're not talking really tight," Steinberg says. "Everything is just trimmer a little."

Which is one reason why the turtleneck has made a bit of a comeback for men, experts say. Worn right, it's slim and sexy and is a great alternative to sweaters, worn under jackets or sports coats.

And everything is just a little bit more casual, yet jazzier.

"Men are wearing their suits without a tie to be a little bit more casual," says Logan. "And they're dressing it up with different colors and styles."

Shirts are funkier, with contrasting collars and cuffs, Steinberg says. Hats and slender lace-up shoes are a must.

The most daring man will also buy a very embellished leather motorcycle jacket, says James, of Katwalk.

"People are just excited to dress up again," says Logan. "I think it's a nice movement in clothes right now."

THE MUST-HAVES

1) A slim suit. Wear it to work with a French-cuffed shirt. Wear the jacket and the shirt to happy hour later, with a pair of dark denim jeans.

"People are dressing more casually these days," Steinberg says. "But don't walk into that downtown restaurant with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt that says 'Bud Lite' on it."

2) A shirt with French cuffs and/or a turtleneck.

3) A leather jacket.

tanika.white@baltsun.com

Suggestions from those who know

What must the city's fashion-savvy have for fall? Here's what some of you had to say:

Toni Paterakis, 19, of Timonium, sophomore at the University of Delaware, studying fashion merchandising

Platform shoes

A sweater dress

A fun belt

"I'm really in love with Minnie Rose silk cashmere [pieces]. They make sweater dresses and comfortable pants. The silk cashmere, it doesn't pill. And they're a really light material. The dresses, you can put leggings with; they're kind of short. And I know that platform shoes are really in for fall. They're really great."

Lisa Schatz, 36, owner, Cupcake boutique in Fells Point

A minidress

Tights

Peep-toe pumps

"I personally have to have minidresses. The silhouette for fall has a long-sleeve variety, a very 1960s minishift. Women were afraid to wear them with bare legs. In the fall, it's all about the tights with it. It's much easier to wear. You don't have to worry about the dress being very short or the dress baring something you don't want to bare."

Justin James, owner of CHAOS Boutique, 824 Guilford Ave.

A leather jacket with embellishment

Another multi-functional jacket

"Leather jackets are definitely going to be in for fall and winter. There's a company called Latino Royalty, he makes really good leather jackets. He puts a lot of patches and studs and embroidery on it. I'm definitely looking for one of those. I also like [a company called] Triple 5 Soul because they use a lot of different material - nylon jackets, denim, wools and tweeds. I like a lot of multi-functional stuff. I like a lot of pockets, a lot of zippers. Things you can maybe zip the sleeves off or a have a lining you can take out."

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