Dark tones, edgy cuts take fashion to the '40s and the future

Jewel-collar floral T, INC, $69.50, at Macy's; tuxedo skinny pants, Halston, $325, at Knit Wit; drop earrings, Roni Blanshay Designs, $399, at Peter Kate; black onyx cuff, Ivanka Trump, $3,800, 18-karat tri-color rolling ring, Bernie Robbins Collection, $1,450, both at Bernie Robbins Jewelers.
Jewel-collar floral T, INC, $69.50, at Macy's; tuxedo skinny pants, Halston, $325, at Knit Wit; drop earrings, Roni Blanshay Designs, $399, at Peter Kate; black onyx cuff, Ivanka Trump, $3,800, 18-karat tri-color rolling ring, Bernie Robbins Collection, $1,450, both at Bernie Robbins Jewelers.
Posted: September 12, 2013

Fall's dressy sweatpants, herringbone midi-skirts, color-blocked trenches, and sleek peplums embody a grown-up sophistication.

The frill is gone, and thankfully, so is the phrase the industry has been using to describe everything: "feminine with a twist."

This season's vocabulary words: current, modern, futuristic.

"Everything is edgier, darker," said Ann Gitter, referring to the plush fabrics and deep tones of the ready-to-wear collections she's carrying at her Center City Knit Wit store.

"A statement piece isn't a pink shoe; it's a tweed jacket with a leather sleeve. It's stuff we've seen before, but that we really haven't seen - at least in this way."

In previous years, feminine looks came in the form of dresses. Some were belted and a lot were A-line. We embraced our curves everywhere, even in the boardroom.

But this fall, designers from Tracy Reese to Phillip Lim are done with those softer, lacy looks - unless the lace is the inset of a leather-trimmed cutout. Store racks are overflowing with liquid leathers, luxurious navy wools, and wine-tinged autumnal florals. Silhouettes are simple. Fabrics are sensuous.

You might say the fashions are like the 'tude of real-life Sheryl Sandberg, author of the controversial Lean In, or the fictional badass Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games: I could kick your butt and take names - but I won't.

"The clothing is confident," said Susan Ahn, owner of Eaves, a trendy Wayne boutique that's almost a year old.

She points to an out-of-this-world navy peacoat by A.L.C. sporting leather-quilted, motorcycle-inspired paneling that gives the impression of shoulder pads.

There's also the collection of boho-inspired pants and flowing top ensembles by French designer Isabel Marant that features a navy blue floral print in a patchwork style. Next to those hangs a high-neck, ruffled white blouse. Very Victorian, yet very current, Ahn says.

"I use current to mean an updated look," Ahn explained. "This blouse worn with a high-waisted jean and a great wedge is very now."

For Gitter, the word summarizes the most wearable designs of the season, like the long-sleeve sheath in soft, muted floral tones that Jean Paul Gaultier created for the lower-priced line Fuzzi.

The look, Gitter says, is clearly borrowed from the late 1950s - which we now know so well, thanks to social-media imagery (you know who you are, Pinterest addicts) and our weekend bingeing on period dramas.

"Here you have flashes of yesteryear but you can also add things . . . accessorize it to make it look forward," Gitter said.

And it's not just the conservative 1940s, '50s, and '60s that can be reworked to be current. This fall, sequin-and-leather combos are providing a strong dose of 1970s disco. (Thank you, Oprah Winfrey in The Butler.)

Modern is slightly different. This fall it updates elements of 1960s color-blocking with a clean silhouette for a fresh take.

Colorful jeweled hues, especially varying tones of navys, wines, and emeralds, are being pieced together. Sometimes hues of blue may be patchworked. In other cases, different colors - the deeper reds, blues, and greens - are stitched together.

Some color-blocking is pattern-oriented. Smaller prints and big prints are paired, perhaps featuring a gradation of color for ombre effects. This is done with advances in computer design.

Designers also are using textures to create a color-blocking effect: Leather sleeves on a tartan plaid dress is very of the moment.

"The new modern focuses on the importance of fabrics," explained Nicole Fischelis, fashion director and global trend forecaster for Macy's. This season, Macy's INC collection has a very of-the-minute feel. "It's a mixing of menswear detailing, Victorian-inspired tapestry, not just coloration."

The most forward look, and probably the most difficult to pull off this fall, is appropriately referred to as futuristic. Think Star Trek-esque wedged sneakers, or leggings made from foil-type textiles.

But mostly, fall's otherworldly feel comes from the exaggerated cuts: shoulder pads, severe waists, and hemlines and sleeve lengths that look just a tad too high or short. Blame designers Maria Cornejo, Thom Browne, and Andrea Lieberman (the woman behind the edgy A.L.C. collection) for the shifting proportions.

"Futuristic is more bold, it's more experimental, there are more advances in fabrics," Ahn said. "It's not being afraid to wear an exaggerated skirt."

For those of you who are, balance that hot-pink leather peplum with a checked-wool pencil skirt - albeit one that stops at that awkward spot between calf and ankle. Pair it with some chunky boots, and you will look futuristic - dare I say it? - with a modern twist.

Special thanks to . . .

... Cescaphe Event Group for the use of the Down Town Club, a newly renovated event space for weddings, holiday parties, and other occasions at 600 Chestnut St., 215-925-2040, www.downtownclub.com.

Hair: Courtesy of Syreeta Scott, Duafe Holistic Hair Care, Sherman Mills Art Studio, 3502 Scotts Lane, Suite 29, 267-297-7636, www.dua-fe.com.

Makeup: Courtesy of URS Cosmetics by Ursula Augustine, Ursula's About PHace, 1700 Sansom St., Suite 201, 215-557-1562, www.aboutphace201.com, theuaphstudio@gmail.com.

Clothing and accessories: Bernie Robbins Jewelers, 595 E. Lancaster Ave., #1, St. Davids, 610-971-2448, www.bernierobbins.com; Eaves, 105 N. Aberdeen Ave., Wayne, 610-688-4466, www.shopeaves.com; Knit Wit, 1729 Chestnut St., 215-564-4760; Laundrea, 2901 Dutton Mill Rd., Suite 200, Aston, www.laundrea.com; Lois A. Wigs, 766 S. Fourth St., 215-922-2119; Macy's Center City, 1300 Market St., 215-241-9000, www.macys.com; Nine West, the Shops at Liberty Place, 1625 Chestnut St., 215-851-8570, www.ninewest.com; Peter Kate, 3830 Kennett Pike, Greenville, Del., 302-656-7463, www.peterkate.com; Tiffany & Co., 1414 Walnut St., 215-735-1919, www.tiffany.com; Vows Timeless Bridal Millinery, 764 S. Fourth St., 215-922-0121.

Assistant stylist: Mark Anthony Barksdale

Model: Jenelle Marie Speller

Contact Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter, @ewellingtonphl.

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