On a recent afternoon in late July, as the temperatures pressed upwards of 98 degrees, I passed Saks Fifth Avenue and did a double-take: There, in the window, was a new fall look that, while stunning, included a hip-length fur vest. Fur. In July.
It's long been one of the great mysteries of retail that you can rarely find the things you need when you actually need them: It's impossible to find a decent swimsuit for Fourth of July weekend; and come winter's chills post-Thanksgiving, you're lucky to find a well-fitting winter coat while jostling for position with hordes of holiday shoppers in the sale section.
While the fashion industry continually struggles to infuse the retail market with an ever-rotating supply of new clothing—creating more and more "seasons" like Pre-Fall and Resort to dazzle American shoppers who, it seems, never really stop shopping—the one area where they continually fall short is in timeliness. The main competition, of course, comes in the form of cheap-manufacturing, fast-fashion outlets like Forever 21 and H&M, which can afford to turn merchandise week-to-week. Meanwhile, top designers remain bound by the fashion calendar to garner the most publicity for a new collection at the September fashion week shows, where, of course, they're not even showing fall wares (they'll be showing spring 2011). This September, the powers that be are organizing several events to counter-balance that confusion, from Fashion's Night Out (a Friday night during Fashion Week where stores host events and stay open late to encourage shoppers) to a massive fashion show at Lincoln Center, just before Fashion Week kicks off, where designers will show current season pieces only.
Though, in reality, these are strange tidings indeed: most insiders see these idiosyncrasies as merely a way of life, and buy accordingly—as should you. In the interest of keeping us all well-heeled for the upcoming season, here are a few staples to consider investing in now, so that you don't miss them once you can actually, oh, imagine putting on a pair of socks without sweltering.
A Shearling Jacket
This season, several fashion houses caught the Amelia Earhart bug, creating tough-yet-trim aviator jackets fully lined in shearling. (Remember, though, "shearling" isn't shorn wool, it's the skin of the lamb with the wool attached, so be mindful of PETA.)
The Pair of Boots You'll
Wear All Fall
You've probably already seen them in the window of your favorite store, or in an email blast you got last week. Maybe they're laceups, maybe they're brogues, maybe they're clogs—odds are, if you're obsessed with them, you're not the only one.
A Heavy Swing Skirt
Good old-fashioned 50s femininity made a big comeback this season—both in moody schoolgirl kilts (think Buffy over Britney) and circle skirts rendered in heavy wool and even leather. Imitations will run rampant come October/November, but the high-quality originals will vanish by time Fashion Week hits.