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Layers make lasting impression on fashion players

By Samantha Critchell

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 16 2012 12:27 p.m. MDT

NEW YORK — Thousands of outfits later, with probably every hemline, color and silhouette turning up somewhere on the runways of New York, London, Milan and Paris, fashion insiders have started to focus on trends they think will have the most influence on style in the second half of the year.

There was a wearability to many of the clothes paraded in front of retailers, editors and stylists, which might not have made the most exciting show seasons, but could translate into solid sales.

"Designers are understanding that women don't dress in gowns," says Brandon Holley, editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine. "It was all about pieces you could work with. Now the question is, what can you break down and put into your wardrobe?"

Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, says the "big idea" that stuck with her throughout the previews was one of eclectic elegance. It's a more democratic style that more women will be able to participate in, she notes, because it's not about a single must-have piece, it's about creating an overall look that can be achieved with the individual pieces that best suit your body and life.

Five trends that were strong in the four big fashion capitals: layered separates, interesting fabrics, coats, military and melancholy.

—Layered separates: Forget the simple dress and be ready to add a few extra minutes to your morning routine to put together your outfit, says Linda Wells, Allure magazine editor-in-chief.

If you like the long-sleeve sheath dress, then think about how it will look with a vest or jacket on top. If you like more of the A-line dress shape, start gathering chunky knit cardigans and blanket coats.

"This is going to be a complicated way to dress," Wells says. "It's very interesting, but it's not about running out the door in one great dress, and your coat is not just a coat, but it's a coat with a cape over it, maybe a coat with a vest, a coat with a detachable fur — and a turtleneck."

Underneath all the layers were some wearable pants and trousers that, Lucky's Holley predicts, will be popular. Shoppers have already shown interest in all the colored pants that have emerged as an early trend for spring.

"A lot of the pants are menswear-inspired. It's not 'menswear' but it has the feeling of being separate pieces with a businesslike vibe," Holley said.

—Interesting fabrics: Rich luxe fabrics in rich luxe colors such as burgundy, bottle green and teal mean a stepped-up sophistication for clothes without blingy bells and whistles. Envision brocades, jacquards and metallic tweeds.

"The gorgeous colors are flattering for so many women, and they look great in the decorative fabrications and translate into outerwear, another important trend," says Saks' Sherin.

And, she says, get some leather, especially if it's a mixed-media coat, perhaps leather sleeves on a cashmere coat, or panels of leather on a shearling.

Allure's Wells noted leather T-shirts, pants and dresses, too. Leather used like lace in the Alexander McQueen collection was pure art, she says.

The leather goes with the rough edge that seemed to guide many designers this season, she says. "There's definitely a bit of a tough look."

—Coats: Coats are a good investment piece because you get so much use out of them, Holley says. A coat is a workhorse in a way that a great dress or even great black pants cannot be, she explains. "You can wear your new coat many times and (for) many seasons."

As a look, she favored the trench coat silhouette with a pair of slim-fit pants and a beautiful flat shoe.

Sherin says shoppers will have other options, ranging from peacoats and duffels to sporty, puffy jackets. There were fancy embellished coats and even those with gilded embroidery at Dolce & Gabbana.

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