A banner year for suits

Dressing economically today is a lot like stretching food for unexpected guests. You slice the ham thinner, make all servings leaner.

So to make tight money, fabrics, and clothes go farther this fall, coat and suit silhouettes have been pared down. This invariably happens in a depressed economy. Flapper dresses of the 1920s are one example.

The result of such whittling for 1982 is a long look of slim jackets over narrow skirts and straight coats, worn loose or belted.

Occasionally the linear line is broken by wider, softly tailored jackets, but it's clearly not a year for bulky excess.

Even a well-loved, much-worn jacket can come out of retirement this year, no matter what its shape - classic blazer, boxy double-breasted style, blouson, or fitted spencer. You'll be amazed how fresh it can look and how good you'll feel wearing it again. To give it a contemporary appearance, emphasize the shoulders with a bit of padding.

Rejoice if you saved what you thought was an outmoded straight skirt. If the quality is good, it's definitely due for a repeat performance. And never mind about the length. Designers have given the nod to hems from knee-grazing to just above the angle. Yours is sure to fall in there somewhere. A pretty blouse of chiffon or damask can do wonders for a resurrected skirt.

As for pants, you'll see a few novelties like knickers and other cropped lengths, but concern for practicality has recalled classic cuts. The straight or slightly tapered leg is the season's leader.

It's a bonanza year for coats cut straight but roomy enough to slide over suits and sweaters. Here again, if you own a wrappy steamer coat, a classic polo style or a velvet-collared Chesterfield, you're ahead of the game. Your winter outerwear problems are partially solved.

If, on the other hand, you're among the season's new-coat shoppers, you're in for a surprise that includes magnificent new wovens in rich jewel tones, marvelous mohair in bright ribbed patterns or subtle shadow plaids in earth colors, sturdy but luxurious wool meltons, nubby tweeds, handsome leathers, and loads of super-soft cashmere.

Down-filled rainwear is set for another season, while the fur-lined raincoat, once a stong status symbol, still has the same aura and looks great.

The 7/8-length coat is popular this fall, because most are shaped to accommodate jackets and the cropped length works well with slim skirts.

In colors, black is the year's big winner, but teal and burgundy also score high. Asymmetric treatments are a strong trend in detailing.

If you buy just one new item this fall, make it a belt. Bold and dramatic, sometimes cinch-wide, they form a focal point for many costumes. In leather, metal, rope, velvet, and silk, they aren't inexpensive, but the fashion impact is worth the price.

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