New York The perfect accessory adds the proper punctuation to an outfit. If you're looking for an exclamation point this fall, try an oversized bag, a touch of the Wild West or an exotic animal print.
The staple of the season, however, is again the boot.
"Boots and by extension, booties are the perfect accessory," says footwear designer Stuart Weitzman. They work for a variety of outfits and personal styles, he explains.
And now they fit a variety of leg shapes.
Thanks to technological advances that allow manufacturers to put a Lycra backing on suede, the boots will stretch to fit oversized or muscular calves and contract to fit skinny ones, Weitzman says.
But pairing suede footwear with also-popular suede clothing can be tricky. Weitzman says it's OK to wear black suede on the feet if the skirt or pants are also black suede, but lighter-colored suede clothing calls for leather shoes. "It's easier to coordinate," he says.
Weitzman's other bit of advice is to only pair booties with pants unless a woman is wearing a completely monotone look with opaque tights.
There also is a shift to make shoes more boot-like by covering the instep because most women wear pants nowadays more often that skirts, he notes.
As for heel heights, anything goes. "There aren't high-heel versus low-heel customers anymore. Not the same woman wears a variety of heel heights and us designers respond," says Weitzman.
The important thing, he adds, is to make sure the heel matches the spirit of the shoe's front; a feminine toe shape should get a pretty heel, such as a kitten or stiletto, while a tailored toe box should have a strong heel that's not too masculine.
Variations on a theme
Footwear Crushed boots, last seen in the 1980s, are back in 2002 but they require a certain "fashion savvy" to pull off, observes InStyle magazine's fashion director Cindy Weber Cleary. The magazine devotes a special section in its September issue to accessories.
"They're showing them with pants tucked in, which had been a fashion faux pas," Cleary says.
Lace-up boots also are hot this season, although the best investment remains the slim-cut boot that goes to the knee, she adds.
Other footwear fashion statements, according to Cleary, are skimmers, with practically no heels, rounded toes and ankle straps, especially for evening. Of course, a sexy high-heeled shoe is never out of style.
Western-inspired fringe on boots and moccasins is still in, according to Kenneth Cole spokeswoman Meredith Paley, who also notes that boots with stitching are already selling out of stores. These touches work well with denim clothing and long prairie skirts, she says.
An earth-colored palette
Fall's colors are warm earth tones, including black, red, brown and camel with touches of winter white and aubergine, says Coach's president and executive creative director Reed Krakoff. Popular plaids and patchwork allow for the whole palette to shine instead of a single color.
(Weitzman also says that seemingly bold animal prints have become almost a single neutral color because the browns, whites and tans featured in the prints go with anything.)
Soft, comfortable and big handbags with embellished details such as embroidery have "a very American feel," Krakoff adds.
To counter all the big bags, MAC, known for its cosmetics, is launching its accessories collection with makeup cases that double as small-but-functional purses. The bags, made of Italian vinyl and designed by Matt Murphy, current designer of the Lagerfeld Gallery Accessories, are modern and sleek on the outside but with many compartments on the inside.
They'll come in black, white, red and beige.