New York According to the fashion calendar, we're about to enter The Year of the Horse.
Refined equestrian-inspired clothes are among fall's top trends, from jodhpurs to riding boots.
On the opposite end of style's spectrum are chic "biker-chick" leather and studs. That leaves the Annie-Hall-meets-Cinderella look achieved with a ruffled blouse peeking out from a tailored suit somewhere in the middle.
The variety of looks basically means "nothing is out," according to Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour magazine. The key to looking good, staying hip and shopping smart all boils down to timely but timeless clothes, she says.
Luckily, those clothes are pretty easy to find this fall. And, better yet, they can be found at all different price points.
There are some items that are worth an investment, says Leive, and others aren't. But there is no hard-and-fast "worth it" rule because the guidelines are based on individual lifestyles.
(Leive says she'll pay a lot for a good suit because she favors simple shapes in classic colors.)
In a three-hour shopping spree, Leive picked out more than a closetful of styles that hit on the major trends but can also be worn for years to come.
"For me, they have to pass the internal reality test of 'Will I really wear this?'"
Finding new classics
The first stop on the shopping tour is Michael Kors' upscale designer boutique where tweeds and plaids, chunky knits and garments in tan, charcoal and black line the wall. The occasional piece in green, orange and yellow also stands out.
She is drawn to a black wool sleeveless dress with a V-neck that hits the mid-calf. There are no sequins, no collar, no embellishment whatsoever.
"This is the most useful dress. It's neither too casual or too dressy. ... You should be able to wear this 10 years form now." She deems it worth the $1,300 price tag if it's properly tailored.
"The simpler the dress is, the more important the fit." She adds: "I'd pay more for a classic or a dress, not $2,300 for a casual sweater."
Speaking of sweaters, Leive says if you're going to try one of this season's popular chunky knits, don't get it oversized.
"You want it close to the body. The challenge is to not look like you're swimming in it."
Also, she suggests, wear chunky tops with very tailored pants or a slim skirt to create contrast.
Another sweater tip: Stick to dark or neutral colors if you're buying inexpensive sweaters because the colors will help mask problems with quality.
Suit-type jackets are extremely popular this year, but is sounds odd to call them "a trend" because they already are a staple in many wardrobes, Leive says. Among her favorite versions are a long, three-button blazer in a nubby gray and a very similar coat with a fur collar.
She particularly likes blazers in tweed because they are versatile dressy with a feminine chiffon blouse or casual with black jeans.
"So many women are out of the habit of wearing a jacket but there is something very powerful about a jacket."
Dark leather boots, which are white hot this fall, can be worn with most of the top looks, says Leive, and they're especially helpful in keeping plaids from looking too "schoolgirlish."
Other accessories that will help you look current without forcing an overhaul of your closet are riding bags from Kors or even L.L. Bean and lace-up, "man-tailored" shoes.
Pretty in pink
"Pink is a trend that you saw on the runway that you knew would catch on because women like to wear it," says Leive as she looks through the racks at Bloomingdale's.
Most women look pretty in pink and it's complementary to most skin tones. That said, Leive warns that there are definite pink "don'ts" for adult women who want to be taken seriously, such as wearing a very frilly pink dress.
Leive chooses a pink tweed, very tailored skirt from Kors, Michael Kors' less expensive line, and pairs it with a pink sleeveless turtleneck from BCBG. A tailored jacket would complete the ensemble, she says, because nothing is frilly but the pink is "instantly feminine."
Kenneth Cole's mauve suede skirt takes the pink trend and puts it in the very popular leather-suede category. Leive says she'd wear the skirt with a "sophisticated not candy-colored pink" Kenneth Cole silk peasant blouse with a self-tie belt.
Leive also likes Ralph Sport pink tweed pants. "You might be asking 'Can I really wear this?' But at least try it on. You might like it."
Her two choices for dresses are "the 2001 descendants of the 1960s trapeze dress," Leive says, because they are figure-flattering. Both the Theory camel dress and the Kors coral dress are keepers, but she suggests the camel dress is a more sound investment because it can be worn every week for years to come; the coral color is more memorable and, therefore, more limited.
Clothing inspired by the "motorcycle mamas" might have a shorter life span, Leive says, so she favors subtler garments, saving the all-out pieces for accessories.
Trendier and cheaper
The last stop is Express, where all the top trends Leive has identified are in the windows.
The biker leather skirt with a zipper up the front is for youthful consumers, acknowledges Leive, but the look becomes more grown up with a tuxedo blouse and sophisticated high heels.
Also in leather is a full-on "corset" outfit, a lace-up skirt and jacket.
The leather isn't as expensive and the quality isn't as good as you'll find in a designer boutique, but it's sometimes more appropriate for a younger woman to wear the trendier and cheaper version of a designer look, Leive says.
The store also has a lot of military looks another leftover spring trend and Leive cautions that a little bit goes a long way. Wear either khaki or patches or camouflage, but not all at once.
Just before leaving, Leive puts together an outfit similar to one she saw at Michael Kors: a fitted, chunky-knit sweater, slim equestrian-ish pants and a wide belt. A trend is a trend is a trend.