Some of the freshest looks for fall will be kept under wraps.

It started in Milan, when designers sent clothes down the runway swathed in shawls, protected by ponchos and covered by capes -- loose, free-wheeling covers wrapped around looser and longer styles, adding one more layer for warmth and fabric mix. Paris designers picked up the theme that carried right through two weeks of showings in New York. It seemed that if you had a huge shawl or cape or poncho next fall, you could disguise and update all of your clothes of seasons past.

Most of the shapes are familiar. Shawls never really went out of style in the last couple of years. (Ungaro says that's why he put them back into his collection -- his customers loved wrapping a top layer over themselves.) Ponchos and capes proved a natural extension, offering more coverage and comfort and ease of wearing.

Some of the styles look so complicated you wonder if they shouldn't be sold with a set of directions. Others are so simple they may as well be blankets, and that is what some designers are calling them. One way of deciding what's best for you is to consider which will be most comfortable driving, carrying packages or even dealing with a handbag. All are tricky, but sometimes the capes that have some shaping to the shoulder provide an anchor and the ponchos with slits provide a way to wrap or tie the cover in place.

Of course, what designers put underneath is interesting as well. Among the newest ideas:

Looser and fuller pants of many different shapes and lengths ranging from above the knee to just about any place on the leg.

Lightweight layering, including dresses over pants, loose tunics over skirts.

Soft fabrics shot through with gold, copper and bronze for daytime and evening. Metallic accessories, too.

Supple leathers used like fabric, for all the softly-shaped clothes around.