washingtonpost.com  > Live Discussions > Style

Fall Fashions

Robin Givhan
Washington Post Fashion Editor
Monday, August 18, 2003; 1:00 PM

The thermometer may finally be reading summer but if you're reading fashion magazines and/or browsing store windows, it's time to shop for fall. Talk about confusing! Gauging the season's new trends and ideas to figure out how to give your old wardrobe a new luster is no simple task. Is one of those pencil skirts a must-have? Or is it over-the-knee boots or a tweedy jacket? And what about gloves? Is orange the new black? Do you really need a pair of leggings?

You get the picture. Join washingtonpost.com shopping producer Janet Bennett and Washington Post Fashion Editor Robin Givhan online Monday, Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. ET to sort out the season's new looks and Givhan's no-nonsense take on what to invest in for fall.

_____More About Cooking_____
What's Cooking Archive
What's Cooking World Videos
What's Cooking Video Library
Listen to Kim on WTOP
E-mail Kim O'Donnel
An Italian Journal
Post Food Section

The transcript follows.

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: Fall fashion is full of possibilities, and therein lies the problem. So many choices. Luckily, Washington Post Fashion Editor Robin Givhan is here today to give her guidance on the must-buys for this season. Any personal favorites for you this fall, Robin?

Robin Givhan: Good afternoon everyone. Glad to be here to talk about fall fashion, because I think so many collections looked great wihtout being outrageous. My big fall favorites are tweed, cropped jackets and all of the very polished and sophisticated lookes


Straight Guy Needing A Fashion Eye: Could you please help with a question about men's suit jackets? For more than a decade, I wore the standard two-button wool business suit. About three years ago, three-button suits were all the rage. Then came four-button suits. Now, everything seems to be reverting to two- and three-buttons. BUt I've also seen one-button suits. What is sartorially correct these days? Should I send all of my four-button suits to Goodwill and stick with three-buttons? Or are we back to two-buttons? Thanks for your help!;

Robin Givhan: oh the woes of being a man who cares aobut fashion. how much do i love you!! the classic suit is really the two or one button suit. you can't go wrong. i think the three button suits look terrific if you have a long torso and are especially appealing on young men who tend ot be a bit more angular. four button suits are for a basketball player. i say avoid them


Washington, D.C.: Robin: I am a 42-year old man who is finding it almost impossible to buy decent, fashionable clothes. Men's clothes are cut SO trim to the body that if you're 10 pounds overweight they don't look good. A salesperson at Banana Republic sympathized and said their clothes indeed had gotten "smaller." Do you see this trend continuing?

Robin Givhan: welcome to my world. men's clothes - particularly those that are aimed at men who follow fashion - have a narrower cut. blame the likes of Prada, Yves SAint Laurent and Gucci for that. darn them! men's suits definitely have a leaner silhouette. i do think it's a trend that will continue, but there are lines that offer a bit more more room to move, but it's definitely hit or miss. also, fall has a lot of mod influence...and that means leaner lines


Rosslyn, Va.: Hi there, what would you say are some general pieces one should get for fall?

Robin Givhan: well, if i were going to be your personal shopper and could spend your money at will, I'd buy a tweed blazer - one that i oculd wear with a pencil skirt, as well as one to toss over jeans. i'd buy a frame handbag - something very ladylike. i'd invest in a great pair of pumps - faux crocodile, maybe. definitely buy gloves. i'd also want a little sparkle, maybe a skirt with a little metallic thread running through it. or a satin blouse. it's a very feminine and polished fall. no more plumber's crack with the pants. nothing sloppy or oversized.


Washington, D.C.: Here's my problem. I am in my early 50's. I work at a law firm. I don't want to look ridiculous by dressing like a 20-year old, but I also don't want to dress like Barbara Bush (matronly). Could a personal shopper at a major department store (Nordstrom's, etc.) help with this problem? Thanks.

Robin Givhan: all hail the personal shopper!! love them and they're free!!! by all means, if you'd like to put together a wardrobe or just update what you've got, definitely take advantage of the personal shopping services. you're under no obligation to buy, but after all of their help, it does seem like it would be rude not to buy something...almost all the major stores, neiman's, saks, nordstrom, etc. have them.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Robin -

Any chance you will consider doing these chats on a more-frequent basis? I think its great for all us fashion-addicts out there!

Robin Givhan: hey, i'm happy to do them. love talking fashion and shopping...


Janet Bennett: Robin, what about coats this year? I'd love to get a classic trench coat, but it seems every time I look there's nothing out there that's affordable. Have you seen anything you like? Also, what do you think about faux shearling? Robin Givhan: This is a great season for coats, structured versions look really great. the trenchcoats, fur trimmed coats, tweed coats. Ah, but you want affordable...so you want it all....i've seen great looking coats at banana republic that are very "on trend" as they say on seventh avenue. for the classic trench, i'd check places like banana, ann taylor, or even some of the dept. store private labels.

personally, i love the really tailored coats and the ones with 3/4 sleeves - the better to show off the new gloves i will soon own. i think some faux shearling looks great, although, i don't have fur issues - please don't hate me - so i prefer the real thing.


gaithersburg MD: What are good fall colors? What's out? Thanks.

Robin Givhan: Good fall colors are the ones that look fabulous on you. fashion is all about you, you, you. there are lots of vegetable colors out there - pumpkin, olive,- also lots of gray. but personally, i look awful in most shades of gray and so will be avoiding it like the plague. are any colors out? i can't think of a specific color but i'd say that lighter, delicate shades aren't as prevalent for day. the tones are deeper. same is true for evening, colors like emerald green and dark purple.


Arlington, Va.: I'm a guy in his mid-30s who is just developing the first signs of middle-age spread. Sadly, my thickening torso seems to be impervious to dieting and working out like a madman. Besides the obvious pinstripe shirts with pointed collars, what professional clothes can I wear that will make me look slimmer? Thanks.

Robin Givhan: blasted middle age! i'd avoid pleated trousers. flat front pants are more slimming around the waist. i'd also avoid bulky sweaters, anything that would add weight were you don't want it. and frankly, i think nothing makes a man look more fabulous that a well-tailored suit. i'd definitely spend the extra $$ to make sure that every suit jacket fit as close to perfect as possible, with a sharp shoulder line and i'd play around with the positioning of the buttons to see whether a lower or higher button stance on the jacket made the torse look its leanest.


Baltimore, Md.: I hear the pencil skirt is THE shape for fall, but I'm a tiny person (5'3", size 2) & I tend to get lost in long skirts. How can I make this trend wearable for me?

Robin Givhan: if you've got a curve or two, i'd bet a pencil skirt would look great on you. the point of the pencil skirt is not its length but rather its lean silhouette. don't wear mid -calf, hem it to the knee and where it with a heel rather than a flat. how chic will you be!?


Fashion Section in the WP: I'm a Washingtonian who reads the NYT fashion section, rather than the Post.

Most of your columns are about the BUSINESS of fashion or the people. Looking back at your columns in the past few months -- Martha Stewart, Kenneth Cole, Demi Moore, Judy Nathan, Top Model, Queer Eye for the Sraight Guy -- most of it is about personalities.

Where is the news about the trends? Isn't it interesting that leg warmers are back? What about a column about the fads of Washingtonian women? What do the owners of the boutiques say that we are buying?

How about a little less Style profiles and a little more fashion? Thanks.

Robin Givhan: Point taken. I admit that I'm more intrigued with how the fahsion industry works and its players rather than the trends which i think magazines like Vogue do a very nice job covering.

also, sorry this is moving so slowly. i'm practically back in the dark ages here in new york with a dial up connection and a laptop. the big apple is still not quite up to speed following blackout 2003


Washington, DC: Tell me more about shoes for fall. Lately I've seen slingbacks eveywhere. Are they making a come back?

Robin Givhan: slingbacks are the classics that won't go away. lots of pumps this season. also, more round-toe shoes a la 1940s / 1950s. heels are a little chunkier. there also the mod element with silver boots and over the knee boots.


chevy chase, md: Robin,
Any trends in womens sweaters for fall/winter '03. colors, styles, materials, etc?

Robin Givhan: there's a particular trend that i like. sort of plays off of menswear. close fitting sweaters in argyles, for instance. sweater vests are still around. graphic sweaters in black and white. but i think the bigger news is in the jacket, not the sweater.


Downtown, DC: I love the Miu Miu collection for fall, especially the loafer/heels that I've been seeing, but can't seem to find it anywhere in the DC area. Do I have to take a field trip to New York?

Janet Bennett: Janet here. There was a time when Neiman's carried some Miu Miu. You might try that.

Robin Givhan: mmm, yea, i liked miu miu for fall also. pack it all up and send it to me! not sure who has much of it in DC, but if you're seriously in love with the collection, a field trip to an actual Miu Miu boutique might be in order...


rockville md: what's a frame purse? the vera bradley purses, for those who carry a bunch of stuff, are at least lightweight and have pockets for things. I feel like I spend one third of my life digging around in the bottom of my purse.

Robin Givhan: a frame purse is one that is built around an actual sturdy frame - like a doctor's bag or a kelly bag. think 1950s handbags. they tend to be heavier than their frameless counterparts, but they have a more polished look.


Alexandria, Va.: I love your writing and I love your eye. To the rest of the world, I say, "She's a fashion writer, get it?"

What about a suit where you love one piece and the other piece is aieeee? I have a suit with a long chanel-style jacket and the skirt is inexplicably a long a-line. Would any jacket work with a skirt like that?

Robin Givhan: i love you back! hate when one half of a suit lets you down. the jacket sounds great. a chanel-style jacket (and the folks at chanel hate it when you say that something is chanel-like ) is always a keeper. if the skirt is midcalf length, i'd probably see if a tailor could improve upon the silhouette. if not, maybe it doesn't need a jacket, maybe a blouse is a better option. or a sweater? something lean on top to balance the width on the bottom.


Washington, D.C.: Ahhhhhh!!!! I bought some boring khakis to weah to work and wore them today to discover they are practically bell bottoms! (I'm a guy) Am I trendy and don't even know it, or a big goober?

Also, pleated or plain front?

Robin Givhan: doll, you're not a goober, for sure. but i'm afraid i can't support you on bellbottoms. too late to return them?

definitely plain front. more flattering. who needs extra fabric hanging around the torso?


New York, N.Y.: Regarding the pencil skirt and other trends. I am a size 12 to 14 depending on the designer. It seems like it is more difficult here in NY (I used to live in DC), especially the hyper trendy and uber skinny East Side where I reside, to find well made clothes that are currently fashionable and are my size. I know all about Marina Rinaldi and Saks' department for sizes 14+, but I am not that big ... Any thoughts? Also, I am an atty and try to dress conservatively. Thanks.

Robin Givhan: ah yes, the upper east side of new york seems to have more than its fair share of the size 2 or 4 population. i can't walk around over there without a little pep talk to bolster my confidence! i think that Kors , Michael Kors secondary line has great pants. they make room for a woman's curves. have you tried the Barneys house brand? also, i'd try more American designers or Belgian ones and steer clear of the French and Italian ones who typically cut smaller. an exception is Biella Collezione. Italian. beautiful fabric. incredible fit. in nY, you can find it at Barneys, i think.


Bethesda, Md.: Well, I particularly like the kind of reporting you do for the Post. The fashion shows are there, but the look at fashion in newsy personalities (Martha, the spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Serena Williams and so on) are the kind of fresh, fun look at current news you'll never find in a fashion magazine. So stick to it, it's quite unique and funny. And you know it won't get unnoticed because everytime you write something like that there'll be an outraged letter to Free For All that Saturday. Keep it up!

Robin Givhan: thanks!


Cap Hill: Hello Robin,

What do you think all those flip-flop wearers I see about town (not the beach) will sport on their feet when the weather gets cold?

Robin Givhan: i've got one word for flip-flops aka shower shoes, in town. yuck.


Bethesda, MD: Robin, I enjoyed your talk at the Corcoran last year. Any plans to speak in Washington soon?

Robin Givhan: not terribly soon, but this fall. i'll be back at the Corcoran in November talking about spring 2004. hope yo'll come. i think it's nov. 5


Washington, D.C.: I'm an avid Vogue (and pretty much every other glossy) fan and my favorite collection for fall was, without a doubt, Carolina Hererra. The skirts with the velvet ribbon and the satin blouses were the greatest. Do you know of any retailers that are doing a similar, but less expensive, look?

Robin Givhan: i loved that collection, too. but carolina's prices do take one's breath away. you might try to duplicate the look by buying up a bit of velvet ribbon and applying it to your own skirt. not sure who's knocking off hererra, but the usual suspects include banana republic and club monaco. i might also check dept store private labels because it's such a profession look that i'll be lots of working women will be looking for.


Washington, DC: What's going-on with John Bartlett these days? Will he return to designing menswear in the near future?

Robin Givhan: john, john, john, how i miss him. last i heard he was trying to get financial backing to do a limited line: john bartlett pants. or john bartlett shirts. something like that. but he was still dedicated to menswear. the industry needs him back, i think.


Houston, TX: What about leggings?

Robin Givhan: if you've got the legs for leggings - that is, you walk down the street and people regularly say, GREAT LEGS, - go for it. we're having an 80s retro moment. if, however, you are eyeing leggings because they look so comfortable, skip 'em.

frankly, i think leggings - outside of a gym or a running track - are flattering on approximate 1 percent of the population...and that group can be found on the runway.


Washington, D.C.: Robin,

What is the shoe trend for men? Will the square-toe "look" continue? or Are the new shoes becoming less angular and more rounded?

Robin Givhan: i think we can safely say that the square-toe look has become a classic. i've noticed more angularity in men's shoes. a little more of a point - so that men can be just as uncomfortable as women.


Washington, D.C.: Thanks for the chat- it's a great idea. I love the looks for Narciso Rodriguez and Carolina Herrera this fall- just beautiful.

Any of the collections that caught you by surprise? (Good or bad)

Robin Givhan: those were two of my favorite collections. both designers are on a roll, i think.

i was surprised by how much i liked the Prada/Miu Miu lines. love that sort of sexy secretary kind of look. not a fan of Dior. something about latex skirts ....


Alexandria, Va.: Your story on Michael Kors was fascinating. I've heard a lot about his designs for women, but where can a guy find Michael Kors menswear in the DC area?

Robin Givhan: Kors is an interesting guy. very down to earth but also completely enamored with fashion. glad you found the story intriguing. his menswear is not very widely distributed, that's something that he and his new partners are working on, one of their big priorities. i thought i saw it at the saks mens store in DC. that would be my first call. then i'd call nordstrom to see if they have it or can get it for you.


Van Ness, Washington, D.C.: I'm a law student about to start interviewing for summer positions at DC firms and find myself in a bind. I have a great classic black skirt suit by Kors but can't find the right shoe to go with it. I need something fairly conservative (yuck) and comfortable. Any suggestions?

Robin Givhan: this doesn't sound like too tough of a problem. a classic black suit? i'd wear a gorgeous pump. keep the heel no higher that 2 " for comfort. pick a narrow, classic toe maybe in an embossed leather.


Fairfax, Va.: Any suggestions for a 5' 2" woman with an average frame? Somehow I think the short women with short legs don't fit the fall lineup.

Robin Givhan: oh how wrong you are. it's all about proportion. keep the jackets shorter and more fitted. keep your skirt slim and don't let it get too long. make sure your clothes fit you well - have shirt sleeves shortened if necessary. but i think this is a great season for petites because nothing is oversized, nothing is supposed to be big and blousey, everything is much closer to the body.


Silver Spring, Md.: Robin, thanks for the Kenneth Cole article. He and I are college classmates -- Emory 1976 -- although we didn't exactly travel in the same circles. I love his shoes (wearing a pair right now, in fact), but the rest of his fashions are a bit "young and trim" for this lumpy body.

Robin Givhan: glad you like the KC story. he's got a lot of fans out there and it's nice to see an alum give back to his university.


Washington, D.C.: Hi,
I have been living in Washington DC area for three years and what I can say is that DC is not fashion oriented at all. I do not buy great and expensive designer's clothes, just coordinate and have matching jewelry and it seems that people think I wear expensive clothes. J I have to admit, I love nice clothes and jewelery, but I hate going to malls. So, I basically relay on small stores such as Filene's Basement, Loehmann's, TJMaxx and from time to time Gossypia. Janet once introduced me to Gossypia and since then I am a big fan, especially loving their formal dresses. Can you recommend other smaller stores for good quality stuff, that would not be in malls, and preferably in VA or DC.

Robin Givhan: malls are great, but they can be overwhelming. have you checked out the new stores in the U STreet, 18th STreet area of DC? they're fun and not too terribly expensive. there's Betsey Fisher in DC. and just across the DC line on Wisconsin, there's SAks Jandel and Relish, both pricey but with high quality clothes and splendid seasonal sales. there's also MicMac Bis, which has an artsy feel.


dupont: i could use some help. I am throwing my mom a 50th birthday party. It is taking place on the Cape in Sept at a semi casual resturant. What should i wear?

Robin Givhan: what a good child you are ! but i don't know if you're male or female, dupont....

if you're a guy, i'd wear a jacket, just because you're the host and it's your mom and you should be little bit dressier, i think. if you're a woman well, i'd wear something that said festive. a dress w/ a little sparkle maybe, or a great pair of party shoes. i'd also consciously plan a wrap so that you didn't have to toss on a sweater at the last minute that ruined all of your best laid fashion plans.


Washington, D.C.: Hi. I just got a new job and I use different kind of public transportation to get to my office. I cannot wear all of my great high heels on a way to the office or going back home unless I want to die soon, which is not a case. So, I am looking to buy "walking" shoes, but not sneakers or anything close to that ( I hate seeing other women doing it - wearing great outfits and sneakers). I heard that ECCO makes nice walking shoes that I could wear with my skirts, but I cannot find them here in DC area. Can you recommend where I can find nice looking (not flat) and comfortable shoes for walking (about a mile a day) in metro area? What kind of brands? Thank you.

Robin Givhan: i love you for refusing to succumb to the temptation to commute in sneakers. !!!

i know the brand ECCO but can't tell you precisely where to find them. have you tried Aerosole shoes? pretty stylish and known for comfort. you might try Camper, another brand that is casual but known for rubber soles. i'd check a story on U Street called, brace yourself, Wild Women Wear Red Shoes. the store's premise is cool shoes that are comfortable. you could also try Relish in Chevy Chase on Wisc. cool - pricey shoes - that typically offer style without stilettos.


Arlington, Va.: Robin, thanks for doing this!

A question for you or other chatters: do you know of anyone offering a red pencil skirt in any of the stores (from Target to Saks)? I really really need one this year! Cheers.

Robin Givhan: oh my, it has to be red? you realize, of course, since it has to be red you will be able to find every color under the sun other than red. try Target and the new Isaac Mizrahi line. he likes classic shapes in fun colors. you might get lucky. otherwise you might have to find yourself a good dressmakers


Washington, D.C.: What stores would you recommend to find some good fall basics?

Robin Givhan: fall basics that won't bust the budget? i'd go to banana republic, the gap, thomas pink, nine west.


Alexandria, Virginia: At what age should one stop wearing jeans? I'm 35 and thinking I'm getting too old for them. Am I right?

Robin Givhan: you are never to old to wear jeans. however, at the age of approximately 16, one is too old wear super low rise jeans.


Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: If I only have 300 to spend on clothes this season, what should I buy?

Robin Givhan: i'm a big believer in quality over quantity. i'd buy one great tweed jacket. or a pencil skirt and a pair of pants that hit at the natural waistline. or the skirt and snazzy shoes - maybe a 1950s style pump.

thank you all for bearing with me and my slow-going laptop. this has been great!


Janet Bennett: That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.


© 2003 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
Viewpoint: Paid Programming

Sponsored Discussion Archive
This forum offers sponsors a platform to discuss issues, new products, company information and other topics.

Read the Transcripts
Viewpoint: Paid Programming