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Style Primer 

Local fashion experts say that this fall, bright and gaudy is in!

Buying clothes for someone is like trying to order them dinner. You may have a general idea what he or she likes--salad, burgers, maybe fish--because you've been out to dinner before, but you can't be quite sure what he/she is in the mood for.

And since what's "in" in the fashion world changes as often as people's food cravings, shopping for others can be quite a daunting, if not impossible, task.

To help the majority of us who find buying gifts to be a challenge--particularly in the clothes department--we asked some local experts about the season's must-haves.

"Purple!" Crystal Craney and Moriah Raiola say simultaneously when asked what's hot this fall. The pair works at Divaz, 906 E. University Blvd.

The color of royalty and eggplant, and the inspiration for a Hendrix hit is this season's trendy hue. Bright colors, in general, are hot right now. Color-blocking and mix-and-matching (not overmatching--that's a big no-no this fall, according to Raiola) are all fun, but purple is the color champ. Grab one of the season's hot trends--an Audrey Hepburn-style jacket, a long, tunic-style shirt or a color-blocked trapeze dress--in this plum-alicious shade.

Trailing close behind is the season's other hot color: gray, an unlikely but versatile competitor. Pick up a gray cowl-neck sweater to wear with your favorite jeans, or jazz up a dress with gray leggings.

Yes, leggings.

Though it's typical for fashion to cycle, this season seems to have a superfluous undercurrent of flair from decades past. The recent legging fetish is a Flashdance-era rewind. This comeback has been warmly welcomed as an easy addition to any ensemble.

Rewind 10 years further, and get high with serious '70s style. High-waisted jeans are also a member of fall's leg-wear elite. "Wide-leg is also in, but those are more couture," Craney said. "Couture" essentially means expensive, of course, but less expensive versions of this trend can be found at places like Old Navy and Mervyn's, in addition to local stores.

That's not the only throwback, as '70s prints are hippie-chic with dresses and tops in silk fabric, featuring both bright and soft colors.

Another option: Show off your wild side (in reasonable doses, please) with leopard-print flats or a zebra-print handbag.

"Animal prints always seem to make their way back," Craney said.

Another classic print has made its way from your kitchen towel rack to trendy boutiques: plaid. This is another pattern that you should be careful not to overdo--like Burberry everything, or "things that are branded just for the sake of branding," according to Sarah Devlin, employee at Pitaya, 943 E. University Blvd. Plaid works best on shoes, totes or headbands.

Speaking of accessories, there is one which is garnering the spotlight like never before: sunglasses. Leading the pack this fall are old school Ray-Bans: Wayfarers, as the sunglass aficionado might call them. Think Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Reflective lenses and brightly colored frames are popular, particularly red and white, à la The Hills' fashionista, Lauren Conrad.

As for fans of big, oversized shades: Don't worry. Thanks to style pioneers in Hollywood, our eyes (and half of our faces) will stay well-protected and oh-so-fashionable (albeit bug-like) for years to come with gargantuan glasses. They started out as a fad, but as more and more variations have sprouted up, the trend has quickly become a staple.

"Big glasses and thick, colorful frames," described Kristine Ramey, who also works at Pitaya. Anything Jackie O-esque will do: colorful, gold or silver, jewel-embellished ... but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Amping up the metallic gold and silver craze of late is anything sequined or jeweled. This glitterized style can be seen as detailing on tops, purses, shoes and jewelry.

"Jewel-embellished anything is in, really," Craney said, "flats embellished with rhinestones, hobo bags with long straps with lots of buckles in silver or gold."

Gone are the days of the "less-is-more" mentality: Jewelry this season is, to quote Miss Fergalicious (sing along), g-l-a-m-o-r-ou-ssss and gaudy. Chunky bracelets featuring intricate designs or loads of bright color can add flash to a boring wrist. Long and layered necklaces, big earrings and oversized faux rocks polish off a hip look with flavor and personality.

The luggage-like purses, fittingly named hobo bags, are still cool, although smaller handbags are making their way into our clutches again.

To finish a look, one must end at the bottom: shoes. Many women are praising the fashion gods, because flats are in. The original concept was somewhat ballet-slipper-like, but the with addition of straps, bows, buckles and--of course--the season's signature bright colors, these footwear must-haves have become fun, easy and comfortable options for any outfit, dressy or casual.

Ankle-high booties are also in, giving calf and knee-high boots a run for their money after their years-long reign in the footwear world. Available as heels or flats, they're new, different and versatile.

Now comes the oh-so-necessary finger-wagging.

The general consensus is that Uggs are, as Heidi Klum would say with conviction, "Out." I know they're comfortable, but that's how it goes in the world of fashion. Auf wiedersehen!

Also on the no-no list are terrycloth dresses. First of all, we're not on the beach. Second, it's November, and third, and most importantly, they're done! These fuzzy frocks had their 15 minutes of fame; let them rest in peace.

Don't shed tears; the new dress styles are cuter anyway. But a word to the wise: Don't mistake a long shirt for a short (and getting shorter) dress. As a general rule, if a garment ends above the halfway point of your thigh, chances are, it's a shirt, and you should consider wearing pants with it.

Speaking of dresses getting shorter: If you haven't been doing your squats and are looking to drop 10 pounds without moving a muscle, here are some guidelines proven to de-plump while adding a pump of panache to your wardrobe.

• The darker, the better. It's a well-known fact that the color black makes you appear thinner, but it's not the only color--a dark-violet hue will do the trick just as well. Add a dark-washed pair of jeans, and remember that a boot-cut style helps create a streamlined effect, as opposed to skinny jeans, which--though chic--are tapered and may reveal a little more of your assets than you want them to.

• Add a waist. Thick belts are in, so throw one over your favorite shirt or dress at the most narrow part of your waist, and the weight you didn't drop disappears.

• Avoid horizontal stripes. If you're packing on the holiday pounds, opt for a sleek vertical-striped dress instead.

• Dress for your body shape. You know what looks good on you. Even though your best friend may look awesome in a tight tank and skinny jeans, that doesn't mean that you will: Avoid the styles that enunciate your more unappealing curves. Take advantage of the loose-fitting fashions: Empire waists, waterfall styles and trapeze dresses hide all those flaws and flaunt your sexier features, like shoulders or legs.

Fall style is eclectic, bright and playful, so if it's clothing your giftee is after, keep an eye out for these vogue looks, and you're sure to please.

After all, if someone is in the mood for a filet, chicken parmesan just won't cut it.

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