Updated accents

Learning to knot a four-in-hand could rate in your priorities somewhere along with improving your tennis backhand. But the accessory that has set the fashion wires humming on both sides of the Atlantic lately is a feminine equivalent of the man's necktie.

It made a compelling appearance in Milan with Giorgio Armani's hit collection of mannish clothes for women, establishing the cravat as the snappy new way to dress up a silk shirt. Armani's ties are long and flowing and of splashy print, knotted loosely below an open collar. Elsewhere there were patterned crepe de Chine ties worn under V-neck collars or as fill-ins for open necklines - at Gianfranco Ferre in Italy and at Chloe in Paris, for example.

In America, Anne Klein is one of the firms carrying the banner for the cravat. Here again, the look is neat but casual, with the slip-knot well below the throat line. Chances are that the silk tie stands to replace the silk square and the floppy bow as the touch that tones up a sportswear outfit.

In other accessory news, costume jewelry continues to play a big part. Necklaces, chokers, bracelets, and pins are ornate and chunky. Some of the prices are also large-sized. Although the basic line of Monet, a giant of the industry, retails at from $25 to $65, the company's Yves Saint Laurent signature jewelry goes up as high as $400.

Expensive pieces set with fake pearls and colored stones do, however, sell well and are acceptable for daytime. These elaborate neck chains and bracelets are often worn in multiples. The more minimal the clothes, the bolder the jewelry is a current fashion precept. Rhinestones with all-black day clothes, a vogue that swept Paris, has affected traditional thinking about glitter.

Otherwise, in the general accessory picture, there are three main trends. These are based on inspirations from Mother Nature, the candy shop, and the art gallery. In the first instance, materials like mother-of-pearl, carved ivory, rock crystal, cork, polished stones, and smooth woods sometimes combined with snake or rhinestones are utilized for jewelry.

Fishnet is an innovation - used for handbags as well as trims for hats and gloves. Embossed leather, burlap, rope, canvas, reptile skin, and animal prints are in for bags and belts. New sunglass frames, which have sleeker lines, come in tortoise, mother-of-pearl, and snake. Circular shapes that curve up toward the top are replacing the aviator.

The second trend is represented by a selection of light-hearted accessories in bonbon colors like peppermint pink and mint green. There's acrylic jewelry that resembles spun sugar and rock candy. Hearts and bows are favorite motifs. Crochet wrist-length gloves, woven sash belts, long floating chiffon scarves, and clutch bags with decorative frames in confectionery tints make up a delectable assortment.

As for the art influence, it's especially notable in tribal collars made up of rows of beads and in tiered filigree neckpieces - works that look as if they'd be at home in a museum.

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