Fall Fashion Forecast: Sleek, Chic, Luxurious

It’s OK to look rich again. Even if you aren’t, this is the season to dress as though you are.

The slim, tailored, classically elegant apparel styles created for fall are worth investing in — and are relatively easy to fake if such an investment isn’t in the budget. Colors are rich and deep, fabrics are lush and accessories are back! The look is sophisticated, grown-up and functional.

This return to elegance and classic styles bodes well for jewelers. Fine jewelry is the one fashion industry segment that’s always understood the real value of buying something good and making it last.

The trends: The silhouette for fall is long and lean, with influences from the 1920s and the 1970s reworked into a contemporary, salable new look — not just another season of Retro. Think of maxi coats, pants suits, velvets, tweeds and cloche hats. The look is closely fitted but not tight; it complements the body without exaggerating it or making it a sexual object. The three key apparel pieces to own this fall are a pair of slim pants, a great new coat and a turtleneck (black, preferably). Jackets and skirts remain important, too, looking fresh in the new lean shapes.

Pants are the leading wardrobe component, especially with stovepipe straight legs and flat fronts. Tom Ford at Gucci reintroduces the stirrup pant, which never went away in many parts of the U.S. There’s a classic pleat-front straight leg for those with builds not complemented by stovepipe trousers. Fall collections include scattered examples of wider pants under fitted jackets, but slim looks fresher; the proliferation of long, lean jackets and maxi coats should help even not-skinny women feel comfortable in skinny pants.

Jackets for fall also come long (fanny-covering) and lean, single- and double-breasted. The newest jackets are military style with shiny brass buttons, sharp shoulders, belts and epaulettes. The trend includes a new emphasis on the peacoat in a variety of colors. Even newer is the pants-and-coat combo. Ankle-grazing maxi is the length to have, in styles ranging from classic double-breasted 1970s inspirations to big cuddly bathrobe wraps. This isn’t the year to buy a new winter coat; it’s the year to buy a new wardrobe of winter coats. Shearling, fake (and real) fur, wool, cashmere and camel hair are all there. This provides a whole new role for big playful pins; show your customers how they look on a coat or hat. Offer some super silver styles in lower price points because women may hesitate to wear more expensive pieces on their outerwear.

Topping things off is a new old classic: the black turtleneck. Designers everywhere show it with the new pants suit, the new military jacket or even just a slim skirt. It’s investment dressing at its peak, especially in silk, cashmere or fine merino wool. (This season’s closely tailored clothes don’t leave much room for layering, so lightweight but high-performance fabrics such as cashmere are important underpinnings.) And it’s a great backdrop for virtually any kind of jewelry. For those who don’t like black, there are plenty of turtles in browns, grays, purples and patterned knits.

Designers don’t even deign to debate the skirt and dress length issue this year. Anything goes, except perhaps the micromini. Some collections feature maxi skirts in superstraight tube styles. Knits — a key fabric for fall — make them practical for walking. An alternative is the long A, with fitted waist and hips and a gentle flare below the knee. Above-knee skirts look good, especially paired with some of the newest jackets and turtlenecks. They also allow a display of colored, patterned hose and knee-high boots.

Other top news is a resurgence of the blouse, mainly fitted silky shirts such as those that Tom Ford at Gucci made popular starting last year.

After seasons of blatantly sexual dressing, fall’s only nod toward bare skin for day is the shirt left open an extra button or two — all the better to fill in with necklaces!

Buttons, bows and more: Buttons, bows, sequins, feathers, trims and other accessories are back with a vengeance. The fall collections include hats, belts, bags, patterned legwear and, of course, jewelry. At Chanel, a leading arbiter of accessory trends, designer Karl Lagerfeld offers brass buttons, military jackets with big gold belts, big pins and, of course, the requisite double C’s on everything.

Part of the return of accessories and of luxury is a resurgence of logomania. It’s part of looking unabashedly rich — or at least telling everyone you want to look rich.

Taking a classic shape and making it new with fabric texture is a favorite design trick, and it has been playing out well with the shiny satins and gently glowing shantungs of the past two seasons. Now the shimmer is toned down as velvet comes to the fore. Cotton velvet, more matte than its silky cousins, looks right for day, while lush deep velvets are important after dark.

Last spring’s infatuation with color continues, but the shades are muted. Italian designer Miuccia Prada describes these colors as chromatics for people who like black. Aside from black and its first cousins, charcoal and hematite gray, the new “in” colors are some variety of purple, ranging from lavender to mauve to aubergine to eggplant to burgundy wine. Look also for classic camels, coffee browns and deep greens and blues. We’ll also see the pumpkin-and-spice palette, but less than in Europe.

Gems to consider for these colors are amethyst, garnet, ruby, rubellite tourmaline and anything else in the red-to-purple family. To accent browns, camels and spice tones, try garnet, especially mandarin varieties, and topaz, citrine, fire opal and other warm-toned gems. Yellow and pink gold will complement both palettes. For blacks, grays, blues and greens, white metal looks newest, especially with diamond.

What it means to you: This part is always fun — or frustrating — depending on how you look at it. It’s time to break out the crystal ball and see which of the new fashions your customers will wear and, more importantly, what they will demand from you to accessorize them. Here is what JCK predicts and suggests:

  • The structure and substance of fall clothes will require jewelry with some attitude. Jewelry shown on the runways was big, and recent jewelry shows also pointed to a coming resurgence of bold.

  • White metal, the reigning trend at European jewelry shows this spring, wasn’t as prevalent at The JCK Show in Las Vegas. At apparel shows, sterling was the metal of choice for buttons, buckles and shoe ornaments. Be prepared for customers seeking white metal jewelry to wear with their black and gray fashions. Silver provides a sharp contrast; platinum and white gold are more subtle.

  • Don’t forget gold, however. It works well with the fall colors and is very much an option for women who don’t like or look good in white metal. Diamonds go with everything, and the fall color palette of muted hues and a range of purples works especially well with colored gemstones in all price points.

  • Belts are important for fall. Some fashion experts call them “the new jewelry.” If you’ve thought of offering precious metal or jeweled belt buckles, this might be the year to try. Many jewelry designers offer them.

  • Hair is neat and pulled up. This means bare ears in need of earrings. Buttons and bold on-the-ear styles are good choices for these clothes; keep dangles neat and not too long.

  • Turtlenecks are a fabulous backdrop for almost anything, especially bold neckpieces and bracelets. Pearls are ultraclassic and a pin on the neck is a clever touch.

  • Swinging coats will compete with swinging necklaces; opera length or shorter works best. And don’t forget a big brooch for that coat. Jewelry will have to have some substance to hold its own with a coat.

  • Military jackets with buttons and epaulets look especially good with a brooch, bold bracelet or ring, button earrings and a good watch; necklaces and dangling earrings will compete with the trim. Don’t overdo here — suggest your customer stick to one standout piece. For an unusual look, hook a rope of pearls to the shoulder like a military braid.

  • Daintier necklaces are good to fill in a snug shirt left unbuttoned to there. Here’s a good use for the still-popular “Y.”

  • The sturdy fabrics of fall can take almost any kind of jewelry. But there are some cautions. For knits, make sure jewelry is free of rough edges that snag and that the knit is thick enough to hold a heavy pin. For velvets, remember that some brooches or heavy necklaces can crush the nap and leave permanent marks.