diane bondareff/associated press


Fall 2007 looks from Oscar de la Renta, left, and Narcisco Rodriguez, above. Fall fashion this year is about a proper suit, long leather gloves, an oxford shoe or a power pump, and a structured handbag.

OK, it’s time to get serious. Fall fashion this year is about a proper suit, long leather gloves, an oxford shoe or a power pump, and a structured handbag. It completes the 180-degree revolution away from the loose and carefree bohemian styles that were all the rage mere seasons ago.

The word that best defines the new look is polished — which is, of course, an old look.

Stuart Weitzman patent leather pumps, $328, Browns.

“It really is a head-to-toe look with matching handbags and shoes. When was the last time we saw that?” says Sandra Wilson, accessories fashion director at Neiman Marcus.

“We feel good about ourselves when we dress like this. It just looks right. There’s no more messiness — I feel that’s the period we’re in right now.”

It’s a reaction we’ve seen before: In the 1990s, for example, grunge in the early part of the decade was replaced by super-sleek styles as we headed toward the new millennium.

“We’re coming off several seasons inspired by the ‘60s and the youthful mod look was in — babydoll and trapeze dresses all summer long. It’s fun, but designers are always looking for something new and so are shoppers. The answer is a crisp, polished look,” says Nicole Phelps, executive editor at Style.com.

“It’s a little bit 1940s with a sharply cut, nipped-waist suit. It’s a little ‘80s with the strong shoulder.”

With a suit as the centrepiece — Phelps chooses a pantsuit while Lucky fashion director Hope Greenberg suggests a men’s-style blazer that can be worn with wide-leg cuffed trousers, a shorter skirt or a grey daytime dress — you wake up with a ready-made uniform. Just add your accessories.

“If you’re afraid of the pant being too mannish, add a feminine bow-tie blouse, which are again pretty popular, or something with a ruffle. Or maybe a subtle metallic — that’s a little less classic and a little edgier,” says Greenberg.

She envisions a style similar to Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story.

“I think there’s always an element every fall of classic, but I think that this fall, what makes it look modern, is it’s a little less preppy and a little more sophisticated,” she adds. “The twist to the blazer is that it’s boxy, not fitted, and the shoe has a good substantial high heel.”

Another wise purchase, she says, would be a grey dress. While dresses are already a hot item, it’s the colour that’s key this time around, not the shape or fabric. “It could be a heavier wool, wool jersey, even silk, just some type of sophisticated grey dress depending on what shape you are.”

The nice thing about grey is that it’s easy to co-ordinate accessories: brown, black, navy, hunter green, purple and burgundy all work.

Neiman’s Wilson thinks the most effective punctuation on an outfit will come from opaque tights; an elegant pump shoe — either peep-toe, round-toe or pointy-toe — but with a straight and substantial heel; a structured handbag in an exotic skin, grey or patent leather; a fur collar for the neck and red lipstick.

“The finishing polish in accessories would be a long glove,” Wilson says. “On top of the glove could be a cuff bracelet.”