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Lida Baday dress, $995 at Milly in Toronto (416-944-2233).
Lida Baday dress, $995 at Milly in Toronto (416-944-2233).

Women's fashion

Fall kicks it up Add to ...

Strong shoulders

The most consistent theme to emerge from the fall collections is the strong shoulder, with examples from Balmain, Givenchy and Nina Ricci. It's eighties-inspired, but with an architectural twist, so don't go out and buy shoulder pads in a can: The garment's construction is as important as the filling. Nina Garcia, fashion director at Marie Claire and Project Runway judge, says you don't need to go for broke. "You can take that trend and make it work for you without really investing [a lot]in it."

Rocker goth

It's no wonder that Toronto designer Sara Rabkin's debut collection Twenty Cluny has already been snapped up by the likes of Fergie and Keri Hilson; she has tapped into a rock star aesthetic with sequined blazers and leggings. "I think anyone who wants to be hot is going to my collection," she says of her pieces, which are almost entirely black. The look is best layered on top, but keep the leg slim and go chunky, not girly, with footwear.

Draped trousers

Hammer pants, droopy drawers, dhoti pants - all variations of the more voluminous trouser have been much maligned since appearing in the spring. For fall, the emphasis shifts away from a dropped inseam towards a fuller hip that narrows to a slim bottom (think men's breeches). It's not for everyone, but wearing the look with heels will elongate the leg and a soft feminine blouse will balance the blooming bottom.

Photo print

The most compelling colour message this season comes from digitally enhanced, super saturated abstract prints. Homegrown darling Jeremy Laing continues his love affair with the power of the print. "It's interesting from a designer perspective because, when I do prints, I engineer them to a garment instead of just buying a fabric and cutting it up," he says. "It's integral to the design rather than supplemental. Plus, it looks great and it's impactful." When the head-to-toe look is too impactful, pick one piece that can be anchored with black to make a toned-down artistic impression.

Rich red

Alexander McQueen used it to create an M.C. Escher-esque tour de force of ensembles; for Yohji Yamamoto, it served as a neutral. Over at Prada, belted dresses, suits and leather jackets in a softer shade of poppy suggested a nod to the 1940s while red was as timeless as it gets at Valentino. Canadian designer Lida Baday showed her colours, too.

Leather everything

If you can only buy one new thing this season, let it be leather. "No other material that is able to replicate the feel of leather molding to body," says Olga Koel, head merchant for Danier. Adds company president Jeffrey Wortsman: "You put on a leather jacket and you're sexier, more confident, more powerful … I know that, in tough times, people look for a pick-me-up. And these are special pieces that are going to last."

Luxe whites

Gone are the days of shelving whites post Labour Day. From Yves Saint Laurent to Ralph Lauren, shades of ivory, alabaster and limestone give new meaning to carte blanche. Fabric makes all the difference; pieces from Tia Ciabani's collection for Ports 1961 boast gold trim, while hotshot rookie designer Joseph Altuzarra draped minimalist jackets and tops with a fur fringe. Combine high-shine satin with texture; it's the perfect opportunity to flout the recession with something that feels old Hollywood glamour.

Sky high boots

No doubt there are those who will snap up Miuccia Prada's hip-high rubber waders simply for the novelty. The rest of us should be looking for a boot that still climbs the leg but offers more versatility. And no, the velvet ribboned Louis Vuitton platform beauties with the cubist heels don't apply. The goal is to go for a pair that's basic black, although basic hardly describes such a sexy statement.

Headpieces

It's the Gossip Girl effect but for a more mature woman. Lanvin, Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens and Diesel Black Gold all showed headpieces for fall. Feathers and netting are the most dramatic; wide bands of fabric à la Fendi are more wearable.

Fur details

Designers are choosing to embellish with fur rather than make it a focus, with coats giving way to collars, cuffs and smaller panels. Look closely and that furry vest may well be faux. "I've noticed a lot of fur at a good price," says Garcia, whose new book, Style Strategy, comes out this month. "It looks like the real thing."

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