National retailers are counting on tiny skirts and bold plaids to bring big profits this fall, and Utah buyers say women will be happy with what they find.

Buyers from stores around the country crowded into designer fashion shows in New York last week. As they watched the models strut and pose, buyers talked about being in a retailing slump.Thinking - hoping - they were seeing clothes that women would crave like they haven't craved in years, buyers applauded gorgeous fabrics and short swingy skirts, bright plaid suits and jeweled evening gowns.

While saying that sales in this state haven't slumped and slouched like retail sales in other places, Utah buyers still expect fall to be a big season.

Susan Collins, fashion director for ZCMI, leaves Wednesday for New York. She's already been to the European shows and knows what's being offered for fall. She knows what Utah customers are likely to want.

"We are conservative," she said.

From the latest New York collections, "I see Utah customers buying classic pieces. I see them buying investment pieces."Many of her customers recognize quality merchandise, she said, and will pay more for a designer piece of beautiful fabric and classic cut - one that will serve them well for years.

She'll order skirts in 21-inch as well as 26-inch lengths, she said. And she expects jackets to sell well this fall.

At Nordstrom, Cindy Richards says her sportswear customers demand short skirts. Bright colors are selling well, too, and she expects that trend to continue into fall.

`I don't believe Utah customers will do color blocking," she said. She'll buy red jackets to sell with red, black or white skirts. Utahns won't wear red with orange skirts, as customers in other states might.

"Here in Utah we are fashionable, not funky. We like a true classy look."

Sharon Loya is in New York with her husband, Bill, buying for their Salt Lake store. "We think fall looks great," she said.

"We've seen lots of color and on the other end some beautiful neutrals. Well be picking up a lot of black from Anne Klein."

Will she be buying some bright plaid suits? "Yes. There are ways to temper plaids and bold colors - to make them very wearable."

Loya is most impressed with loose-shaped luxurious coats. But she thinks Utahns will also be excited by longer jackets and new skirt shapes.

"Lengths are still above the knee for day." She added, "I don't think people should think of length as an issue. Length is no longer an issue."

- Editor's note: Susan Lyman-Whitney recently returned from New York City where she previewed this year's lineup of the latest fashions.