NEW YORK FALL
WHETHER THE RESULT IS LADYLIKE OR EDGY, DESIGNERS ARE FOCUSING ON CLEAN CUTS FOR FALL.

Joan & David: It seems that just about everybody's riding the Conservative Chic bandwagon. But Joan Helpern believes the need for clean-lined, wearable clothes is no passing fancy. In an informal presentation, Helpern stressed the importance of ease in dressing and of achieving diversity with separates. While she likes the propriety of structured jackets, she opted to show them over soft sweaters and velvet pants rather than as matched suits. She gave a nod to men's wear with natty pinstripes and herringbones, and she infused it all with warmth by working in a palette of rich, but cozy earth tones.

Matsuda: Mitsuhiro Matsuda is in a structured mood for fall. He showed beautifully tailored looks that are right in step with fashion's conservative attitude--lean pantsuits, belted coats and austere jackets over long skirts. But Matsuda still has plenty of edge and showed it with his imaginative use of fabrics. He used plastic-coated cotton for a men's wear vest, boiled wool for a "potholder" jacket and even translucent nylon that looked just like Brillo pads for fitted, striped sweaters.

Zang Toi: Toi wisely switched his focus from last season's sporty mood to a more sophisticated one. He gave a sexy edge to men's wear fabrics, cutting herringbone tweed and glen plaid into good-looking suits with feminine shaped jackets over sexy HotPants and slim pants. Fake fur and velvet trim added luxe to ladylike cardigans and classic peacoats, and underneath, Toi put body-conscious cashmere sweaters in pretty pastels or bright silk taffeta fitted shirts. Jeffrey Costello: Costello has moved on from his disco lamA dresses of last season. For fall, he's inspired by early Eighties ska and punk bands such as Fun Boy 3 and X-Ray Spex. His feminine trash looks were actually quite wearable: a wool double-knit dress with a plunging neckline or a skintight dress of girdle fabric with sheer insets. On a quieter note, there was a smart glen plaid pantsuit and a one-shoulder gray bouclA dress.

Jeannene Booher: The lady lives at Jeannene Booher. The designer sent out one perfectly polite look after another, from a windowpane Jackie O jacket and short bias skirt to a chenille jacket over a crepe dress. Booher also jumped on the fake fur trend, trimming a red pantsuit with fake persian lamb. Peter DeWilde: DeWilde's fabric mixes are his signature. For fall, he used wool, silk brocade and lace for well-cut jackets over lean skirts or trousers, some in pinstriped wool. Although much of the 16-piece collection consisted of reworked looks from past seasons, a scalloped petal dress in copper silk brocade looked fresh and young.

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