SEPARATES are giving the corporate suit a run for its money. The safe little suit that was much touted in the '70s now has competition. The nice part is that these separates don't carry ``big name'' designer labels, and they're not in the investment clothes category. They're affordable.
``Naturally, there will always be some women who will dress in the traditional blazer with bow blouse . . . but many women are changing their image. They realize that they don't always have to be dressed in a suit for people in business to take them seriously,'' says Lorraine Rosenfield of Gregge Sport. ``There's a new, softer, professional way of dressing. It doesn't have to be a suit. A tweed jacket, for example, with a soft blouse and a tailored skirt that's slim and below the knee, is one way to go. Or a fuller, longer skirt looks right. Everything is changing. It used to be that women dressed for men and men dressed for women. Today women are dressing for themselves and without outside help. This is an outgrowth of their jobs. You can't be in charge of the office and indecisive at the closet.''
Evelyn Sini of Jones New York says: ``Not all women can afford a closet full of Calvin Klein or Anne Klein. But these career women still want to look good. Their salary doesn't go into their pocket. It goes to the rent, the baby sitter, and the housekeeper. Very few women work for spending money. Many are even the family's sole support. We're offering interesting choices to that outdated uniform. I know it's not easy to change, but women should loosen up. We're showing such things as a novelty blouson jacket in a twill check with a slim skirt and print blouse. Women can't wear a business suit from 9 a.m. to evening.'' Such companies as Anne Klein II, Calvin Klein Classifications, Christian Dior, Liz Claiborne, Russ, Gregge Sport, Jones New York, Chaus, and others feature these new, soft separates.
The jackets, often one button, are tagged at $58 and up. Skirts, which are pleated, straight, or wrapped, are priced at about $38 and up. They're available both short and mid-calf. Blouses and shirts, many of which are pure silk, are not as expensive as in the past. They're priced below $50. There are also neat, cotton sweaters at about $20. Some companies have done these shell sweaters and topped them with matching cardigans to be worn in place of a jacket.
``The clothes are consummately wearable and affordable for the vast majority of fashion-conscious American women,'' says Maxine Forman of Russ. ``And, while designed with fashion foremost in mind, this collection offers fashion that's appropriate to the life style of today's working woman. There are cotton, hand-woven skirts with coordinated sweaters that provide a fashion look that can begin in the office and be easily carried through to dinner.''