FASHION has taken an opulent and much more feminine turn for fall. But it's still relaxed in feeling, and choices are wide open. Oversized, ultramasculine styles of last year are a mere memory. They have gone off into the great beyond, leaving broadened shoulders as their sole legacy, mainly on coats and jackets. Gender blending and obvious forms of male/female crossover dressing have moved aside, and there is not so much yardage now.
Instead, the new deal is a silhouette that is quite natural and womanly, for a change. It recognizes the lines of the body, emphasizing waists and hips, to greater or lesser extent. There is a crop of new draped jersey dresses that actually cling; there are tight little skirts. Other clothes, such as Calvin Klein's coats, are a lot roomier and often belted. But skirts, be they abbreviated and fitted or near-ankle-length and flowing, generally have slender lines. Trousers are on the narrow side. Although
big, long coats may envelope it, the basic shape is kept relatively slim.
As for the going trends, they are not unfamiliar, but they are enriched and refined in unexpected ways. Identified as classic, romantic, and exotic (or, if you will, countrified, dandified, and adventurous), they are often comingled: a high-necked, lace-edged Victorian blouse worn with tweeds; an urban suit that combines suede, gray flannel, and silk paisley; and a collection of long ropes of pearls with otherwise unadorned black. The differences between night and day dressing is not so pronounced; the
ball gown being almost obsolescent. Sportswear now works overtime, and the casual charm of a glittery cashmere pullover with satin pants goes for many black-tie evenings.
All the conventional separates pieces, backbones of the wardrobe, are still at hand. But their interest has been heightened to a sometimes dramatic degree. This year's jacket may be of lustrous jewel-tone velvet; the vest of tapestry; the shawl of silk damask. All the components of separates dressing are in fact offered in more luxurious fabrics, to be mixed with plain and textured wools. In addition, there are unusual juxtapositions of patterns, especially paisleys, checks, and plaids of all kinds. Oft en giant sized, they are worn, one, two, or three against another.
Designers here and abroad have drawn on a store of influences, from the palmy days of the British Empire to the rollicking era of the Far West. There are echoes of English riding formality in red Chesterfield jackets and stock ties; of the Georgian fop in embroidered waist coats and lace jabots; of India's raj in metallic-threaded silks; of the American frontier in elegant leathers.
There is a host of intarsia knits inset with graphic or enlarged floral motifs, the cabbage rose being high on the list. Some of these sweaters are coordinated with challis skirts that repeat the knit pattern, a popular idea carried over from spring and summer.
If that sounds like all the new wearables verge on fantasy, it should be noted that practicality has not been bypassed. Hoods, the answer to the chill factor of a wintry day, are an attractive and sensible addition to a lot of new ready-to-wear. Stirrup pants, the type anchored with a strap under the foot, are functional as well as clean-lined. Nor has the understated look by any means taken flight. It is standing its ground. No-frills classics are still tops.
Simple jersey dresses -- straight as a chemise or gathered around the hipline for day, frequently sarong-draped in after-dark versions -- need only the minimum of decorative touches. There is a variety of suits, with either matched or contrasting jackets and skirts, to give an organized appearance. Some of the colors (ruby, emerald, sapphire, topaz, plus autumnal hues) are rich enough in themselves. But there are other options: earth tones, pale naturals, winter whites, and above all, black. It rates hi gh for all hours of the day.