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Coat check; From trenches to capes, so many ways to wrap yourself in style this fall

This season, women can choose a ladylike coat or a menswear-inspired one.

They can go for a classic, camel-colored "walker" -- or a motorcycle jacket with cheetah-print lining.

The trench coat is popular, but so is the swingy cape.

Can't choose?

Then how about a trench cape? In this season of many outerwear choices, there is such a thing.

"It's a trench with a cape look all the way down the back," explained Mary Ramsay, owner of the Clothes Bar, 4401 Transit Road, Clarence.

Looking back, fall and winter wraps created quite the buzz during the fall fashion previews held in New York last February. Harper's Bazaar called the upcoming season's standouts "covetable statement coats."

Now the latest crop of coats has landed in stores, in catalogs and online.

"It's a really exciting year for outerwear. The outerwear is just as exciting as the outfits that go underneath," Ramsay said.

Macy's features the "Great Iconic Coat" on its seasonal "Hot List" and includes trench, duffle, pea, cape, motorcycle and menswear-inspired styles in this category, as well as feminine fit-and-flare coats.

Such classics get an update, of course. A pea coat might sport an oversized collar. A trench coat, a fuller skirt.

"When it's belted, it looks like a dress," Ramsay said. The hemline even dips down a bit in the back for added interest.
Capes and ponchos are swinging onto the scene. Styles range from sporty to sophisticated, with equestrian and preppy themes also popular.

(A cape drapes around the shoulders; a poncho goes over the head, InStyle magazine explains.)

Pendleton offers a reversible cape -- plaid on one side, camel herringbone on the other -- as well as other styles.

"Women like them in interim kind of weather -- late October and November -- before they need a heavy winter coat," said Jim Cronin, co-owner of the Williamsville Pendleton Shop, 5436 Main St., and Monroe Pendleton Shop near Rochester.

A breezy cape also is easier to fit than a structured coat -- and they're versatile.

"You can dress it up, depending on the style, but it's also acceptable at the grocery store," Cronin said.

Capes and ponchos from various brands come in all lengths and degrees of fullness, so there are plenty of choices.

A few other outerwear trends to watch for this fall and winter (with some already on sale):

*Luxe parkas: They have the shape of a parka but the fabric and details are dressier, the colors updated. On the runways, designers often showed these parkas with something feminine -- pencil skirts, dressy pants, even gowns.

Of course, they always work with jeans.

*Sporty puffer coats: Forget images of the Michelin Man. This season's down or downlike puffer coats are more shapely. Contoured quilting can eliminate some of the bulk, for example.

*Faux fur: It trims many hoods and collars, but some coats and jackets are fashioned entirely of faux fur -- and some in animals prints. Faux fur vests also are back this season.

*Shades of red and orange are seasonal favorites this year.

*Statement collars: Among this year's options? Big portrait collars (especially on faux fur coats and jackets), funnel collars and, finally, no collar at all, but rather a jewel neckline. The look is very polished, streamlined and ladylike.

Looking for a way to update last year's coat?

Here's a final tip from InStyle: Take a cue from the runway and add a belt.

"Play around with a variety of widths and textures, in either the same shade as your coat or a different hue. Just keep in mind -- belting works best on slim-fitting, below-the-knee toppers."


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