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Your Stylist: Capes and ponchos are fall’s fabulous outerwear

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The word ‘poncho’ can conjure up visions of the Old West or of a garbage bag with a circle cut through the top –- a common solution for rainy day recess or unexpected showers during a marathon.

But for fall, ponchos of the posher variety glided down designer runways looking sleek, elegant and ladylike.

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The poncho and its cousin the cape coat are trickling into stores now. They offer a stylish alternative to the typical fall coat, providing just the right amount of warmth for a 63-degree autumn day in L.A.

The terms cape and poncho may seem interchangeable, but they are two different kinds of outwear. According to the Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, a cape is sleeveless, cut as a circle or half circle and has slits for the arms. A poncho is shaped like a square or small oblong with a hole in the center to put your head through.

Both have a dramatic, swooping silhouette that makes the wearer look something like a chic superhero. And both could be thrown over something as simple as pajamas and still look great.

For something more sophisticated, you could go with the ‘70s-inspired, camel-colored cape as seen on the Lanvin runway or something straight-up preppy, such as a plaid duffle cape with toggle buttons from Fidelity Sportswear.

A solid piece will be more versatile. Punch it up by layering a long-sleeved striped or printed shirt underneath.

A patterned cape or poncho, on the other hand, is a statement piece and everything else it is worn with should be solid or subdued.

For a petite frame, be careful it isn’t too bulky, and watch the length. If the garment is too long, you’ll look like a little igloo with feet.

The great thing about a poncho or cape is that it can be dressed up or down and it’s a nice departure from the usual outerwear.

And seriously, on one my lazier days, I threw my blue and black plaid cape over sweatpants and a black fitted sweater and shoved on some flat brown leather motorcycle boots and no one knew the difference…at least that’s what I told myself.

--Melissa Magsaysay

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Photos: Top left: A look from Lanvin FW2011 - Yannis Vlamos / GoRunway.com, top right: A look from Zero Maria Cornejo FW2011 - Monica Feudi / Feudiguaineri.com

Left: DKNY two-tone wool cape, $495, at www.netaporter/netaporter

Right: Stella McCartney wool and cashmere blend cape, $1,395, at www.netaporter.com/netaporter

Middle left: Fidelity Sportswear plaid duffle cape, $268, at www.stevenalan.com/Steven Alan

Middle right: H&M coat, $199, at H&M stores/H&M


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