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Fall Fashion

Fall Trends and Bargains

Janet Bennett and Robin Givhan
washingtonpost.com Fashion Editor and Washington Post Fashion Editor
Friday, September 3, 2004; 12:00 PM

Fall fashions always offer the most exciting clothing selection of the year. In that respect, this 2004 fall season more than meets expectations. In fact, the clothes look so appealing that you may be tempted to buy more new things than in previous years. The choices for energizing your wardrobe include slim pencil skirts, shaped jackets, fur shrugs, booties, round-toe shoes, vintage brooches and tweed coats, all in a predominantly jewel-tone color palette.

Given that our budgets are often smaller than our big eyes, Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan, along with host, Janet Bennett, washingtonpost.com fashion and beauty editor, are ready to offer advice on what to buy for this fall's new sexy but subdued silhouette, as well as what to toss out and what to hold on to.

They will be online Friday, Sept. 3, at Noon ET.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Janet Bennett: Good afternoon, and thanks for joining our discussion on fall fashion. We're seeing a big change from last year's midriff-baring styles, and some of us couldn't be happier about that. Now Robin and I are here to answer your questions, so fire away.

Robin Givhan: Fall looks like an enticing season!


Waldorf, Md.: Where can I find pencil skirts in sizes 12 and 14 for under $75? I have been to several stores and am having no luck. I will go anywhere in the Washington, DC metro area.


Janet Bennett: I found a couple on Nordstrom's Web site by Tessuto and AK Anne Klein; they had limited stock but they did have size 12. Another option is to go to Loehmanns and see what they have there.

Robin Givhan: Can you bump up that price to under $100? Have you looked at Ann Taylor, which has what I think is a very nice collection of fall trends. I also think it's reasonable to invest in a pencil skirt. It's a classic silhouette. It's trendy this season, but it's always in style.


Washington, D.C.: I would like to see some the fall collection lines of clothes. I love clothes and I want to keep-up with the latest fashions. Help me out!

Janet Bennett: Not sure what you mean. Are you looking for a place to buy them or are looking for some ideas from a magazine?

Robin Givhan: I'm going to make the assumption that you want to see a selection of fall collections...go to style.com. It's the website of Vogue and W magazines. You can get the entire collections of most designers on-line. It's predominantly the women's collections, but they've added some of the menswear shows for spring.


Washington, D.C.: Please answer me!!! I ask this question every time you guys have this (great) chat. Where in this area can I find some 34DD bras that don't look like something a grandmother would wear? Please help me get the right foundation for my new fall wardrobe! Thank you! You guys are great!

Janet Bennett: Sorry we haven't answered before. Two suggestions: Sylene's in Chevy Chase and Underwraps in Bethesda are where I'd go to look.

Robin Givhan: I agree...that's where I'd head. I'd also check victoria's secret online or catalogue which generally carry a broader range of sizes than the stores.


Columbus, Ohio: What is the one new must-have fall accessory item in terms of jewelry?

Janet Bennett: BROOCHES. They're everywhere. You can splurge on an antique from a place in Georgetown called Justine Mehlman, go to Proper Topper or select one from Banana Republic, just to name a few. Dress up a suit, a dress, a sweater, a scarf, a coat. You name it.

Robin Givhan: The number one piece of jewelry for fall is absolutely brooches. You can find zillions of them on e-Bay, including vintage pieces from folks such as Miriam Haskell, Albert Weiss, Marcel Boucher, etc. To avoid having them look stuffy, try wearing them in groups on your lapel - two or three together. have you checked out the Gap ads with Sarah Jessica Parker? you can use them to turn a cardigan into a wrap sweater. the point is not to take them too seriously but have fun with them.


Arlington, Va.: I desperately want a pair of Tod's driving mocs. Do you know of any stores in the DC area that carry them?

Janet Bennett: I think your satisfy your desire for a pair of Tods by a trip to Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman's. I don't know of any other place that carries them.

Robin Givhan: And of course, if you want a vast choice of Tod's products, there is a Tod's store in NY.


Gainesville, Fla.: I am a college student, and I love to dress up in the latest trends, but I want to dress my age at the same time. How can I take these rather reserved fall trends and turn them into something more flirty and fun?


Robin Givhan: a brilliant question! i would wear a pencil skirt with a not-so-serious blouse. maybe something in a light, vaguely frilly chiffon or with a sexy little camisole tucked under a shrunken jacket. i'd refrain from wearing a tweed suit but take a tweed jacket and pair it with jeans. i'd wear brooches on a denim jacket. i'd mix a sparkly tank top with menswear-style tweed trousers. in short, i'd take pieces from the season and mix them with things that are less serious...wear your pencil skirt and turtleneck with a short down jacket, for instance. very Teen Vogue, which is really 20-something Vogue.


Washington, D.C.: I'm desperate for perfectly fitting jeans.

I am 5'3" and have a more womanly figure, ie hips and a tiny belly, but I can't find jeans that don't overwhelm my petite, but somewhat curvy frame. Any suggestions for something to fit my size 8 width, but size 4 height?

Robin Givhan: i think i once read in Glamour magazine that the average woman tries on about 20 pairs of jeans before she finds the perfect pair. i'm still in search of my perfect pair of jeans. the magazines have been raving about James Jeans, which are supposed to be cut for women with curves. i'm not sure who sells them...i know Barneys does. maybe Nordstrom? Janet, perhaps you know? Also, if the jeans fit in the waist and thighs and rise but simply are too long...take them to a tailor and have them hemmed. as long as they're not super long you can hem them without losing the shape.

Janet Bennett: I don't think Nordstrom carries James, but you might try Daisy (Adams-Morgan) or Daisy Too (in Bethesda)or any of the new stores in Gtown like Wink, Sugar or Urban Chic. They all have a big selection of jeans.


Sussex, N.J.: I sprained my ankle a few years ago, so after 3 years of wearing comfy (but as funky as I could find) flats & clogs, I'm finally craving "girly" shoes again. I've bought several pairs of pointy-toed heels (some high and some kitten heels) and now I'm seeing round-toe heels. My pointy toed shoes are already obsolete, are they??!!

Also, for some reason, I'm obsessed with getting a pair of crushed black patent pointy-toe, kitten-heel mid-calf boots that I saw; I'd wear them under pants. I just don't know if this is a reasonable obsession or if I should just get over it!

Robin Givhan: your poinyt-toed shoes are not over. they are classic. and personally, i think a pointy toe looks better under trousers than a round toe. round toes are the fashion look of the moment.

as for those crushed patent leather boots...if you love them, get them, but they sound a little 1960s mod for all of these 1950s sexy secretary styles for fall.


Baltimore, Md.: I work in a creative environment, don't wear suits, and need to look on top of fall trends, even "edgy". I'm in my mid-30s. I have $1500 to spend on new fall fashions, including shoes and/or boots and accessories. What pieces would you invest in? (Specifics like designer, brand or stores or web sites from which these are available would be much appreciated.)

Thank you.

Robin Givhan: Aren't we demanding! I would buy a straight or pencil skirt (straight if you're a bit hip intensive. pencil if not.) i'd look at the usual suspects like Saks and Neimans, but i'd also go to Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. i'd buy a tweed blazer - maybe w/ 3/4 sleeves. i actually really like the brown menswear jacket in the Gap ads, but i don't think it has arrived in stores yet. (i'd also look at the Miu Miu brand for the skirt and jacket.) i'd go online to eBay and buy brooches and maybe even rhinestone necklaces and where them in groups. more being better. i'd by round-toed pumps or pumps with some sort of adornment. whatever heel height suited me. i'd visit Nine West, Nordstrom, or if i wanted to splurge i'd go to Prada. i'd invest in the skirt, jacket and shoes. look for bargains on pretty patterned blouses from places like Ann Taylor or club Monaco or Zara. and if i was buying a handbag, i'd choose one of the colorful structured ones from Coach.


Richmond, Va.: Clueless guy question.

My girlfriend wore a lot of shirts and sweaters with horizontal stripes. I implied that she might want a different look, very, very gently hinting that they weren't flattering to her.

She's mostly stopped, but I think she's doing it because I don't like them. And I sense a mild resentment. (I tried to be subtle and courteous, honestly!)

Have I been a jerk, or have I saved her from herself?

Janet Bennett: Not too many people can look good in horizontal stripes; so, unless your girlfriend has a wraithlike figure, you probably have done her a favor.

Robin Givhan: Your girlfriend should buy you a present! Give you a big kiss! No one, i repeat, no one looks good in horizontal stripes. you are a wise and sensitive man.


Alexandria, Va.: Robin,

I have purchased the requisite small, tweedy jacket for fall (in a blue/black fabric), and plan to wear it with black pants (low waist, flat front). What should I wear under the jacket? When I see the same look in stores & catalogs the jacket always seems to be paired with a lacy camisole. I might wear that look out at night, but certainly not to the office. I was thinking about a plain black shell, but that feels like too much black to me. Little help...

Robin Givhan: no black...to matchy, matchy. yes, i love the camisole look but that won't go over at most offices. i'd wear it with a light feminine blouse, maybe in chiffon. something very dainty to offset the tweed. put a camisole underneath and you're all coveredup.


Kansas City, Mo.: Robin, much fashion advice centers on the principle of buying classic clothing and updating with "one or two" pieces a year of the current trend/color etc. Do you follow this path yourself? How long do you personally hold onto classic investment pieces? What type of clothing is your weakness (jackets? shoes?).

Robin Givhan: Hi Kansas City,

I think smart shoppers always invest in pieces that will last and add a few playfrul items each season. how much you choose to spend on playfullness...that's a personal decision. I try to follow that path. I tend to buy pieces that reflect a trend but don't epitomize it. when i find a pair of pants that fit well, i ask: what other colors do these come in? and am likely to buy them all! i invest in jackets. i have a weakness for utterly irresponsible shoes. and i regularly wish i had more pretty blouses in my wardrobe.


Arlington, Va.: I was at a fasion show in NYC several months ago and saw on the runway--men in skirts! (no laughter please, I'm being serious here) I also went with fashion locals to a shop in SoHo that sells skirts for men. Is this a real fashion forecast?

Robin Givhan: Designers have been trying to put men in skirs since the dawn of menswear. Upon occasion, this looks cool, macho and elegant. it is the rare man who can and will pull this off. trust me, this is not a fashion forecast. it is designer wishful thinking.


Washington, D.C.: Last year, we saw ponchos emerge for the first time. Now, this year, they seem to be everywhere. Are they still fairly in style or are they "so last season"?

Robin Givhan: still in style.


Savannah, Ga.: Hi ladies-submitting early b/c of work. I've just moved to Savannah, where the weather is pretty warm year round. Is it acecptable to wear "spring" colors (ie, colors on the lighter end of the spectrum) year round? Or do I need to switch to darker colored clothes in summer weight fabrics for the fall/winter season?

Robin Givhan: i've gotten this question before and i always quote a well-dressed woman from Florida. although winter time may bring 70 degree days, it is still our winter. so she wears temperature appropriate fabrics in darker shades.


Alexandria, Va.: Hello,
I am glad you have this discussion today. I would love to see more of them in the future. You are a great source of information and inspiration to all of us who value esthetics, fashion and comfort.

I wonder if you can give me an advice where my husband can buy a fashionable, comfortable and affordable casual suits that are styled like the ones that men wear in Western Europe. I have male friends who buy suits/pants in England/Italy/France, every time they go there. The suit pants are usually much narrower that the ones that you can buy here and they really look much better than the ones men wear here. My husband is slim and skinny and he looks terrible wearing these wide suit pants available here. Sometimes I see men wearing the "Western Europe" style (??!!!?) suits here in D.C. area and wonder where they buy them -- here? Or they all shop in Western Europe?

Thanks for any advice.

Robin Givhan: Next time, you must ask one of these well dressed men for the brand of their suit. Folks who cut a narrow suit are people such as Helmut Lang, Prada, Paul Smith. Europeans all. if you're looking for something casual, more separates than suits...try Relish in Cady's Alley Georgetown. It's mens and womenswear and mostly European. Try the Saks menstore in Chevy Chase and explain what you're looking for...they should be able to direct you.


Alexandria, Va.: I would like to find a skinny, dark brown belt. I've found nothing at Macy's or Nordstrom that just simple, thin (<1 in), and dark brown. Is there any where else with a good belt selection?

Robin Givhan: you can't find a skinny dark brown belt? really? try Coach.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Where can I find wide leg pants? I mean wide from top to bottom. I'm tired of seeing something labeled as wide-legged when its actually wide at the bottom but skinny at the top.

Robin Givhan: wide leg pants from top to bottom? that sounds supremely unflattering. like pajamas or dare i say it, palazzo pants! the fashion industry has been trying to save you from yourself. do you perhaps mean slouchy pants? relaxed trousers? those are popular now. try lines such as Lauren Ralph Lauren...


Springfield, Va.: If I were to buy only two or three new items to update my fall wardrobe, which ones should I choose (to get the most mileage)? Shrunken jackets, boucle blazers, brooches, etc?

Robin Givhan: i go with a shrunken tweed blazer - a double whammy! and a couple of brooches that you can find on the cheap. a narrow skirt? or if you don't have fur issues - a fur scarf (rabbit is inexpensive) or jacket.


Washington, D.C.: I'm going to a wedding (3 p.m.) at the beginning of October. The dress is "festive." What would be young and stylish -- but still fall-appropriate? I really don't want to wear just a black dress. Is tweed too stuffy for a wedding?

Robin Givhan: depends on the tweed. lots of it has sprinkle of sequins. or a tweed skirt in a pretty color with a feminine blouse could be quite lovely.


Washington, D.C.: If rounded toes are coming back in, should I start consigning my pointy-toed shoes? Also, I'd like to get a new pair of boots that will last a couple of seasons...do you think I should go with pointy or rounded toes?

Robin Givhan: If you no longer like particular shoes, consign them. i wouldn't consign them just because of the toe. that seems far too rash. if i were investing in boots i wanted to wear for several years i'd look for something lean and elegant(probably a pointed toe, but nothing too extreme) round-toe shoes smell like a fad to me. but if you only want a couple season's wear...and you like a round toe...go with the fad.


Gaithersburg, Md.: What's a subdued silhouette? What's great for a young 58 year old woman? But don't tell me those terrible pointy-toed-bunion-making shoes!

Janet Bennett: I guess what I meant was flattering and ladylike. And as for pointy shoes, they're not as hot this year as they have been in the past. A 58-year-young woman can wear any of the new styles -- shaped jacket, straight or pencil skirt, a brooch or two. Robin?

Robin Givhan: the great thing about the fall clothes is that they actually look best on a more mature woman with a curvy figure - take that rail thin, no hipped 19-year-old super model!!

a straight skirt that falls to the knee. a fitted tweed jacket,some shiny jewelry. splendid. and this is your season...round toes are the fashion shoe, not the pointed toe. but for future reference, if those pointy toes are squashing your feet, you've bought them too small. you toes should not be jammed into the narrow portion of the shoe. generally, you'll want to go up a half size or whole size with a keen toe.


Washington, D.C.: Are Uggs way out of style now? And, do you know if they are waterproof? I am carless now in the city and would love to find some boots I can wear with work clothes to keep my feet dry from the snow.

Janet Bennett: I think Uggs have had their day in the sun, but I still love mine and am going to wear them. Yes, they are waterproof and so warm to boot!

Robin Givhan: Love Ugg boots? you should have no trouble finding a pair. the buzz has subsided. the new hot item? the Ugg jacket.


Raleigh, N.C.: Fall fashion-season is the best time of year ... I'm surprised more people aren't chatting this up!

What's the rundown w/boots this year? Would you consider knee-high/calf boots to be classic staples of a fall/winter wardrobe?

Robin Givhan: Absolutely. they'll look especially swell with the slim, below-the-knee skirts.


Kensington, Md.: Do you think we're seeing the end of the low-rise pants silhoette? I haven't bought any pants in the last year or so because I couldn't find them with a natural waist. Lower rise doesn't suit my body type, and I also think it makes everyone's legs look shorter. Anyway, is it on the way out?

Robin Givhan: i'm hesitant to say it's on the way out. what i will say is that the really low rise that reveals part of the midriff is over. pants that sit just below the waist can be quite flattering on a lot of figures. the natural waist, however is back. as for the rise making the legs look long or short. i don't think it's so much the rise as the length and silhouette of the trousers themselves that give the illusion of a short or long leg.


Washington: I second the question about wide-legged pants (as opposed to pants that either flare or taper at the hem). The most flattering pants in my wardrobe are the ones that are pretty much the same width from hip to hem. They help minimize the appearance of my rather large thighs (on an otherwise ok shaped body). Is anyone showing pants with this type of shape this year?

Please don't dismiss the quesiton because the writer used incorrect terminology.

Robin Givhan: I can only answer the question asked...can't read minds! i agree that a flattering pant silhouette is one in which the pants skim the legs rather than cling to them. but pants that are too, too wide through the thigh, just look like big ole pants. this is a season in which loose-fitting mannish trousers are popular from folks such as Ralph Lauren, in his many and various lines. i'd also investigate the new Michael line by Michael Kors...less expensive that his signature collection, same emphasis on luxury basics.,


Bogota, Colombia: Hi ladies,

As fashion here in Colombia tends to be a bit on the cheap n' trashy side, where should I go to shop online?

I like tasteful, classic clothes that incorporate a little trendiness. I also don't have a big budget.

Janet Bennett: How about Nordstrom and Bluefly.com?


Pink pumps: Pink/mauve pumps, black pants. What color hose?

Robin Givhan: hose? must you wear hose? i'd wear sheer, skin-toned.


Robin Givhan: Thanks everyone for a great chat. Talk to you soon!


17th and Penn. NW, Washington, D.C.: What clothing do YOU (that is, both of you) plan to add to your wardrobe this fall? Styles? Colors?


Janet Bennett: I'll go solo on this because Robin had to sign off. But I'm planning on buying a tweed straight skirt and a shaped jacket and maybe a faux fur.

Thanks, everyone. We'll be back in a few weeks.


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