FASHION: FALL ISSUE : Long on Appeal : Elongated Jackets Cleverly Hide Many of the Sins Revealed by Today's Short and Unforgiving Fashions

In a season of narrow silhouettes, leggy short skirts and unforgiving unitards, there is one new look everyone can wear: an elongated jacket.

Think of Janet Jackson in the knee-grazing, pin-striped gangster's jacket she wore for her "Alright" video this spring. Picture Kirstie Alley and the hip-wrapper jackets she's been wearing on "Cheers."

Or Laura Dern, who was photographed at a movie premiere recently wearing a fingertip-length red jacket over Capri-length bicycle pants. What all these women know is that the look works for every figure and it looks good.

This year's jacket can be close and curvy or boxy and man-tailored--like a boyfriend jacket times three. But the one necessary element is length. From the fingertips to just an inch or two above the knee, there's no mistaking these for last year's buys.

At Maxfield, owner Tommy Perse says the longer, fitted jacket looks best over leggings, which he describes as the nucleus of a fall wardrobe. Worn that way, the outfit "hits the nail on the head for California women."

"Clothes are tight to the body, and that fits in with health and body consciousness," he says.

The best camouflaging jacket nips in at the waist and glides smoothly over the hips, notes The Broadway's Stephanie Wargo, vice president/fashion director. She cautions, however, that the jacket must be long.

You'll find the new versions at every department and specialty store, but expect each retailer to have a different way of putting them together with other separates.

Bullock's takes a young point of view with the lengthened jacket worn over a short, flippy skirt, says Macy's South/Bullock's fashion director Robert Rosenthal, who adds: "It can be worn to the office."

At Nordstrom, the look is also long over short, but fashion coordinator June Rau notes, "The jacket doubles as a coat dress when worn with opaque hose."

Robinson's version of the look is to treat the jacket as the pivotal piece and get a variety of bottoms to go with it.

The advice of Leslie Marks, divisional vice president/fashion merchandising: "Make the investment of a good, longer jacket, then buy three bottoms--stirrup pants, easy trousers and a short, slim skirt."

Marks likes the jackets made by Giorgio Armani and Louis dell'Olio for Anne Klein.

Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld was another who made a big point of the elongated jacket, says Rose Marie Bravo, chairman of I. Magnin/Wilshire.

"There was almost no skirt," she comments about the length, which was just above the knee. "He showed one jacket that's a dress. He showed others worn over chiffon skirts or leggings."

One word of warning, however, comes from The Broadway's Wargo:

"The aggressive, monolithic-shouldered power look of the '80s is gone."

So if you're going to update a long jacket from a previous season, throw out the shoulder pads.

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