NEW YORK -- Driven by a host of hot trends this year, and buoyed by strong sales this past season, retailers from Sears, Roebuck and J.C. Penney to Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus have high hopes for the upcoming fall outerwear season.

Among the trends being counted on for big business this year, according to merchants, are:

  • Dressy cashmere coats with fake-fur or real-fur trims.
  • Casual and rugged wools in bodies such as peacoats, swings, car coats and hunter jackets.
  • Fake fur coats and trims, in prints and highly-textured looks, as well as lightweight real and fake soft shearlings.
  • Silky polyester microfiber raincoats in a rainbow of colors.
Many agree with Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president for fashion direction at Bloomingdale's, New York, who said: "It's going to be a great year for outerwear because there is so much variety."

Among the key looks in wool are short swing coats, fit-and-flairs, princess coats, boy coats and peacoats, Ruttenstein said.

"Fake furs will be important from leopard prints to Mongolian lamb," he added. "In addition, active outerwear will have a great part of our stock, especially three-quarter-length anoraks in nylon, microfibers and other high-tech fabrics."

Shearlings will also be very important in new lightweight, soft finishes, he said, while leathers are expected to hold their own, "unless we have a great trend develop in policemen's jackets or motorcycle jackets."

"Precious fiber coats are the most important single trend, and the number one fiber is cashmere," said Ralph Romberg, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for coats and furs at Neiman Marcus, Dallas. "We had a tremendous cashmere year last year, and we think it will be even better this year. Our big thing is 100 percent cashmere, not blends."

This year's cashmere coats are looser and less fitted than in 1993, with new bathrobe and swing styles, Romberg continued.

"We think short coats from just above the knee to knee length will be much more important than last year, when everything was long," he said. "But I don't know if it will be important in Northern stores. If a coat just hits the knee and the wind blows off Lake Michigan in Chicago, they're going to freeze."

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