Ten Fall Trends and How to Wear Them 

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Depending on how you saw the Fall 2009 runway presentations earlier this year, we are either going to be living in the chic 1940s (pleat-front pants, peplum skirts, statement accessories) or flashing back to the glam 1980s (power suits, studs, shoulder pads, and over-the-knee stiletto boots). Fashion’s funny that way: Much like people, it can seemingly hold two completely contradictory ideas in its glossy little head at the same time—sometimes, in fact, blending the two together in an I-can’t-believe-this-look-might-actually-work kind of way (pleat-front pants and studded motorcycle jackets, hello!). Depending on your perspective, this fall’s either the sluttiest season in recent memory or one of the most crisp and tailored. Either way, there’s something here for everyone.


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Pleat-front, high-waist trousers paired with sharply-cut, slightly oversize menswear-inspired blazers. Ironically, at what's been described as the very bottom of our economic recession, we're seeing the return of the good ol' fashioned 80s power suit. This year's iterations are a little bit softer, taking a page out of spring's harem pants explosion. Of course, like so much contemporary suiting, these pieces are equally versatile as separates-pair a heavy-duty blazer with sleek denim, or a slouchy pair of trousers with a simple, slim-fitting tank. Hey, it's a much more fun suit than the options your parents encouraged you to buy after graduation at Brooks Brothers.


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Shoulders are the body part of the season (with hot legs being a close second). Exaggerated shoulders on blazers are everywhere-from Batman-inspired shoulder pads at Balmain to sleeker versions at Elizabeth & James-and an abundance of one-shoulder dresses emphasize a strangely retro kind of sexuality (an alluring glimpse of one fleshy arm and shoulder on an otherwise fully covered to the knee outfit). Both are, ultimately, high-fashion touches on what doesn't need to be an expensive item-one under $100 sharp blazer from Zara and you look straight off the Balmain runway.


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Most commonly associated with street walkers and made famous by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, thigh-grazing boots are, let's face it, pretty hard to wear without looking like a tramp. If the platform and stiletto styles sported on the runway seem a little unpalatable, try a flat version-it's a bit more Robin Hood than Vivian Ward. Try pairing them with a floaty miniskirt and dark tights, or a belted trench that extends past the top of the boot for a kind of leather leggings effect: Both will take the edge off the boots' overt sexiness.


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It's been a couple of seasons and these shoes-much to some boyfriends' and parents' dismay-are still going strong. If anything, the towering shapes have become even more spectacular. Some heels now jut out in almost architectural ways, while other booties look almost like giant tar balloons with ankles and legs rising out of them. Despite rather imperious-looking silhouettes, some of these are actually a lot more comfortable than, say, five-inch stilettos. Just please style the rest of your ensemble down accordingly (no need to pair six-inch platform lace-ups with, say, a micro miniskirt), and, for the love of all that's holy, watch out for curbs and potholes.


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There's a certain pre-occupation with form for fall-more specifically, with silhouette. Many of the season's looks make attempts to exaggerate the lines of the body, either by subversion (creating new shapes where previously there were none) or accentuation (skirts that drape precisely from a high waist band to the knee, creating wonderfully suggestive curves). Expect lots of deep folds, ruched silks, and excess fabric pooled onto hips and shoulders.


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Layering chains and mismatched costume necklaces and bangles was prevalent across most of the Spring 2009 collections, which is probably attributable to the "bang for your buck" theory: Pay $100 on a glittering piece and transform three different simple dresses you already own. Everyone from Lanvin to Phillip Lim has started making lower-priced costume jewelry lines, and the pieces for fall are, overall, like tiny works of art: oversize florals on strands of heavy chain, massive geometric beads, huge glittering baubles, you name it. (J.Crew, I'll admit, actually has some truly stunning ideas.) Get a couple of pieces and overhaul a blazer or sweater with a three-strand dazzler.


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In times of cultural and financial unrest, it's probably true that everybody wants to be a rebel. Ripped jeans, ripped tights, short skirts-they're on mannequins everywhere right now, but the most iconic rebel mainstay remains the leather motorcycle jacket. This season's interpretations come in all shapes and sizes-gray, white, studded, shrunken, and of course, the conventional beat-up black with zippers. We beseech you, dear reader, to veer away from pairing these pieces with the proliferation of leather pants and skirts, or worse, shorts. These tough-as-nails jackets are best worn with softer ensembles-dresses for the ladies, jeans and maybe even ties for the gents.


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Despite the season's playfulness in terms of form and silhouette, there persists across almost all the collections a real insistence on nipped-in waists. Dresses might be voluminous, suiting might be exaggerated, and skirts may have flouncy peplum shapes, but nearly every look is cinched, belted, or otherwise trim. The good news, of course, is that a trim middle is pretty much universally flattering. We'd also say that investing in an exciting belt might be a wise idea-much like accessories, it's a simple add-on that packs a wallop on any simple outfit you already own.


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If you thought you were familiar with embellishments six months ago, watch out, because there's apparently a lot more where spring's studded-and-sequined trend came from. Gleaming studs, in particular, seem to be everywhere-especially on handbags, jackets, and shoes. A touch of evening sparkle (maybe a glittery tank or a panel of gem stones on a skirt) has now made its way into daywear, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to wear a disco-inspired jacket with gray slacks to brunch. Much like the rest of fall's "rebel wear," however, the glitter comes with an edge: Ripped jean pockets get a row of studs, while sequined harem pants are paired with a slouchy white tank and a beat-up biker jacket.


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One of the few emblems of truly throw-back sophistication (other than the ubiquitous fall trench coat) is the arrival of a softly rounded, 50s Mad Men-ish fall overcoat. These coats seem to drape and envelope the figure in an easygoing chic kind of way. They have all the trappings of an Audrey Hepburn heroine or an upper crust European, and seem like an amalgamation of last year's capelet and menswear-inspired jacket. The effect is as laid-back as it is elegant, providing an excellent juxtaposition to fall's edgier (read: street hustler-like) trends.


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