JUST A BIT OF EDGE

THE BALTIMORE SUN

To take the word of the runway, or the fashion glossies, this fall we'll all be wearing explosions of high-voltage neon, shoulder pads big enough to give Talking Heads-era David Byrne a run for his money and enough hard-core leather to earn approving looks from Hells Angels.

Really? Not so much.

The racks at the area's more fashion-forward boutiques will certainly be full of '80s-inspired looks, but somewhere on the route between New York and Baltimore, things softened and became more reasonable, with most trends hinting at, but stopping short of, a full-blown John Hughes movie wardrobe.

"I don't recommend that people go nuts and try to represent all of the trends," says Michele Deckman, owner of Diva in Annapolis. "Pick one and balance it with something a little more basic."

Deckman is excited about the new dresses coming in from Black Halo with dramatic color pairings like pink meeting up with black. There's also Yoana Baraschi's line of knits, including a hot-pink sweater dress with dolman sleeves and a little sparkle that she'd love to see paired with black tights and ankle boots. Or the designer's chartreuse-belted cardigan that Deckman thinks would work over skinny pants.

"It's just this punk-rock '80s influence but definitely modern, sleek and not too overdone," she says.

To segue into autumn from summer, the roomy, longer-styled "boyfriend blazer" should come in handy, says Deckman, who will be tossing one over the jersey dresses she's worn while it's been warm.

She expects a lot of women will be interested in the Hello Skinny jeans. Straight and infused with stretch, for $187, she says they're automatic figure-enhancers that hold you in in all the right places.

And with the recession still pinching everyone's wallets, Deckman ordered plenty of synthetic handbags that look remarkably like leather luxury brands. She's got them in hot accessory colors, including grays, reds and pinks.

At Urban Chic in Harbor East, and its newest location in Annapolis Towne Centre, Lauren Yalich says they're simply "obsessed" with boots. Tall ones, tough ones, sexy ones, short booties - they're just as hot for fall as they've been in recent years.

"What's so great this year," she says, "is that they're making jeans that are great for boots." They're slim, soft, light and tight, fitting almost like leggings. At the store they like to call them "jeggings."

The version by James Jeans in dark, dark denim costs $114 - which Yalich thinks should appeal to budget-conscious people tired of paying twice that for the most fashionable designer jeans.

Leggings themselves are huge, too, and Urban Chic has lots of them coming in, some in black spandex from Susana Monaco.

To go over those slim bottoms, the grandfather cardigan is back, a longer, slouchier sweater than Gramps might have shuffled about the house in.

There will also be boyfriend blazers and a lot of vests. Yalich loves a furry, cropped one from Rebecca Taylor and the cashmere version from Vince.

"A big trend continues to be layering," she says. "A cute tank, a great cardigan and a new vest over top."

At Holly G boutique in Mount Washington, they're keeping the simple silhouettes and classic colors like navy, gray and black that they think will appeal most to cost-conscious, trend-averse shoppers.

It's the flourishes that make them special - the feminine ruffles here, the glint of shine there, maybe a shoulder embellished with epaulets. Rich accent colors such as red, purple, merlot, rose, olive and mustard warm things up.

There's a black dress by Sine with a trendy, one-shoulder strap and elegant pleating.

There's a gray floaty blouse by Parameter with layers of ruffles.

An asymmetrical skirt by Sine comes in a sedate gray, but with a sexy sheen.

At Form in Hampden, they're taking their '80s looks ladylike, sort of what the femme fatales of "Dynasty" might wear now. There are jackets with waist-cinching peplums, including one in soft, taupe wool by Loeffler Randall for $495 that owner Aimee Bracken sees dressed up over a sheath dress, or dressed down with jeans.

There are also plenty of leggings, but the wintry ones are thicker, reach to the ankle and come in wool. And the color of the season is fuchsia. Deep, deep pink.

Former '80s punkers will appreciate the zipper detailing - zippers coiled into the shape of a flower, or edging the ruffles on a blouse. "It's edgy but still feminine and makes you feel pretty," Bracken says.

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