The final touches

The sheer wool blanket-sized shawl, the four-inch-wide waist cinch, the big gold cuff bracelet, and the snakeskin pouch-shaped bag are all top-rated contenders in the Accessory of the Year contest. Each and all of them will add panache to an autumn turnout.

Other knicknacks that will win plaudits in any best-dressed competitions that may be going on across the country include such easily acquired items as dark-colored stockings and the new shiny gold-washed "potatochip" earrings -- so named for their resemblance to one of the nation's favorite snacks. Gold leaf-shaped drop earrings that cost around $8 are another worthy yet inexpensive addition.

Olive, a color that says fall 1981 the way purple and violet tones did in 1980, is an unusual neutral to consider for a handbag, belt, and shoes, along with taupe, cranberry (the new lighter version of burgundy), and egg-plant. A single crimson red accessory -- a shoe, a scarf, a cummerbund -- makes a neat, dramatic point with black and white, a combination that is strong in classic, as well as courtier, musketeer, and Victorian looks.

the metallics are also much in vogue. When used sparingly, they are terrific pickups. A thin dark challis shawl or silk scarf flecked with gold makes an effective punctuation point for an otherwise somber suit or separates turnout. Suede handbags or waist cinches piped with metallic are often enough of a glittery note.

The big shawl and the wide belt are the key items. The first needs to be sizable (the sheer wool 54-inch squares are the best) to be effective with flared skirts and big coats. Giant plaids, paisley, peasant florals, and stripes are the outstanding patterns. Thin solid-color jersey ponchos layered over sweaters and tunics give a surprising amount of warmth. They wrap and drape well, worn toga-style, with one panel slung over the shoulder. Anchoring a shawl this year will not, incidentally, present slipping and sliding problems. Most shawls come in challis or porous basket-weave wool or mohair. Unlike a silk shawl, they have a cling factor.

The belt has been elevated from something to buckle around one's middle to a piece of decorative art. Judith Leiber's belts have impressive clasps that are as beautifully wrought as anything Sir Galahad might have worn. In addition to the medieval and Renaissance embellishments, leather belts cinch waistlines with double buckles, or wrap like obis with string ties or fringed tassels in front.

For frontier turnouts, the American Indian concha belt of silver discs, with or without turquoise stones, is the piece de resistance.m The rare examples that Ralph Lauren's models showed with his Navajo squaw and western pioneer fashions belonged to the designer and his friends. For anyone lucky enough to own one, a real concha belt will make a Gunne Sax flounced denim shirt and ruffled blouse of modest price look like a million.

Under the denim frontier skirt with the 8hem ruffle (Lauren's skirt comes in red, yellow, or white cotton flannel) goes another important accessory of the season, the white-cotton petticoat with lace or embroidered dust ruffle. This, a staple ingredient of the Laura Ashley milkmaid look, makes a versatile item for this fall and winter. It is equally charming when worn under a black velvet or gray flannel circular skirt with a Victorian white blouse. Many Ashley customers wear the petticoat all year -- in the summer, as a skirt.

Big jewelry goes with the big new looks. The larger the beads in this year's necklace, the better. The costume pieces make a splashy effect without too much of a dent in the bankroll. Wide brass cuffs and bangles from India are everywhere, priced from $18.50 to $30, considerably less than domestic brass jewelry. Flat metal discs strung on gold cords, gold-washed collars and breastplates, and gilded leaves on neckchains are all de rigueurm at the moment.

For gala evenings, when gold and black velvet take over the scene, multiple strands of jet combined with crystal or gold are among the possibilities. Multiple means multipe -- one or two dozen strands. Like the rest of fashion, accessories are making their statements in a big way.

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