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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

Fall Fashion Outlook


Rock 'n' roll, cowboys, rodeo stuntmen, Marilyn Monroe, matadors, Eva Marie Saint, The Matrix Reloaded, Carnaby Street, motocross, and Tarzan. Tell me: what do these things have in common?

Why, you're right--they're the apparent inspiration for this fall's fashions!

With a nod to Style.com, Happy Woman brings you some of the season's must-have looks, with ideas to get you in the mood to wear them and tips on how.

Mod Squad

We're back to the Sixties, and of course, minis are in, even, as The New York Times delicately puts it, for women "on the cusp of youth and middle age."

Visit any store, and you will find rack upon rack of abbreviated A-lines and pencil skirts, with designers forgetting, as usual, how many of us are structured more like the nubby eraser tops that go on the pencils.

Look for short tailored coats, elbow-length gloves, and perky headgear. If you saw Down With Love, you'll get the idea. Renee Zellweger reportedly wore more than 100 costumes in the movie and never the same gloves, shoes, or hat.

"It just expressed a certain level of self-respect to be tailored and put that much care into your appearance," Zellweger told USA Today. "We walked a little differently, despite the fact that our feet were killing us."

Is that a fashion statement, or what?

Inspire yourself: Play Beatles albums, or Petula Clark, or Herman's Hermits. Protest something. Rummage through antique stores for a bong.

Get the look: If you're like me, you learned to make miniskirts in sewing class in junior high. You also took cooking class, where you learned to make Chef Boyardee Pizza in a Box. Too bad you weren't like my friend Maureen, the only girl in school to take shop. Then you could repair your own transmission, instead of forking over large sums of money to low-trousered grease monkeys. And you could afford to buy all those clothes.

Clash and Flash

This autumn, a flowered blouse blends inexplicably with a striped or geometric-pattern sweater. Or, as Elle puts it, "Preppy argyle goes city-chic when mixed with vintage prints and paired with round-toe pumps and a ladylike bag."

Inspire yourself: Break all the rules. Eat soup with your dessert spoon. Drive through stop signs. Entertain visitors at the hospital.

Get the look: Allow your four-year-old to dress you. While you're at it, let her do your makeup. Have you seen the colors for eye shadow this fall?

Naughty Bits

Another popular trend is this season's "lingerie-inspired look" (as opposed to last season's and the season before's). Corset tops, silk georgette dresses, black bras with cropped leather jackets, the miniest of miniskirts with a black lace petticoat peeping below. Don't we all look forward to the day when couturiers encourage men to parade about town in their boxer shorts and BVDs? Perhaps not.

Inspire yourself: Skim any men's magazine. Whether its theme is health, auto repair, or even fishing, it is sure to feature attractive women in bikinis holding up barbells, sprockets, or bass.

Get the look: Go through your underwear drawer. Anything that you would ordinarily wear inside, wear outside.

Accessorize with your own version of a rhinestone-studded lucite necklace and cuffs. Get your children a jewelry making kit. Remove the plastic packaging.Wear the plastic packaging. But first, let them punch studs into it.

The Thing With Feathers

Feathered dresses, stilettos, and necklaces are all the rage, with that extra frisson of excitement about what might be revealed during molting.

Inspire yourself: This is a good time for nesting. Fix yourself a lovely dish of suet. Eat it without using your hands. Hop and chirp cheerfully as you flit about your daily tasks.

Get the look: Slather a dress with glue. Have a friend slice open a down pillow and shake it vigorously over you.

Animal Prints

In jackets, skirts, vests, pumps, and handbags. This is not a good season for alligators, crocodiles, snakes, moles, lambs, mink, ponies, leopards, lippi cats, lynx, yaks, sables, foxes, rabbits, or Tibetan goats.

Inspire yourself: Planning a little nip and tuck? Why not combine it with a safari? I am not making this up. Enjoy the beauties of nature while undergoing unnatural cosmetic enhancement. Travel through the wilds of Africa with your bandaged comrades. Or if your budget will not permit, volunteer at a zoo and muck out the elephant house.

Get the look: Think Betty Rubble or Wilma Flintstone. You have to wonder: what does this stuff smell like when it gets wet?

In conclusion, the nicest thing we can say about this fall's fashions is that they will retire quickly to thrift shops and cardboard boxes in your basement, where they will wait patiently to be found and sneered at by your grandchildren 40 years hence.

© 2003 Elaine Langlois

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