Fashion: New looks for autumn as age of austerity fades

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As fashion leaves austerity behind Stephanie Smith picks out key styles and themes for autumn/winter 2014.

Fashion visibly relaxes for the coming autumn, as if breathing out in relief as we say goodbye to severity and austerity.

The new season collections are full-to-bursting with life – with colour and pattern and shape and, most and best of all, with ideas and inspiration.

On the international catwalks, the emphasis was on wearability and functionality, translating almost ready-made to the High Street, but pretty much everything comes with a twist for impact and high style statement.

Suits are cut on the slouchy side with the harsh androgyny of previous seasons edged out in favour of new fluid lines and drapery in silky-smooth tailoring, as if you’ve borrowed a well-dressed man’s evening wear and added your own sexy, feminine touches.

There’s much going on in the way of dress up/down style, and wool is a major player here, with soft cable-knit sweaters pairing with elegant chiffon, silk and satin full skirts for evening.

Shapes are bold and lines are clean, and the sixties mood is reinterpreted again, referencing Swinging London, Twiggy and Jane Birkin at Gucci, Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton this season with mini-skirts, trapeze dresses, Mary-Janes and sharp bobs. There’s a twist of nineties’ streetwear thrown in for good measure.

Key neutral palettes of tonal grey and taupe work especially well in wool and knits, with flashes of brilliant, shining gold. In fact, if you like dressing head to toe in tonal knitwear, this is the season to do it.

Outerwear brings us over-sized, super-soft coats, capes and plush shearlings, while classic toggle coats offer new street-cool kudos and snug blankets and wraps give a boho nod. And the poncho gets yet another outing, while the classic raincoat gets a make-under, transforming into wearable waterproof parkas.

Look out for eccentric furs, reinterpreted at Alexander McQueen, Roberto Cavalli, Chloé, Pucci and Versace, with wild influences, patchwork effects and flashes of vibrant red.

There is a wonderful woodland wonderland theme pervading, with dense and magical forest prints, while feathers bring wild, opulent and floaty elegance. Folk influences continue with naive motifs and hand-crafted finishes.

Designers including Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen and Valentino paid homage to fairy tales from Little Red Riding Hood to Snow White and Alice in Wonderland, with dreamy and imaginative silhouettes, lots of capes, and dresses in delicate fabrics and precious embroidery.

Military khaki becomes more structured, while Aspen chic reinvents the seventies’ cult Argyle sweater, paired at Louis Vuitton with a sixties leather skirt.

Optical monochrome brings intricate geometric patterns and trompe l’œil effects, hypnotic images and optical illusions.

There’s an array of shimmering, lustrous but slightly space age fabrics, especially on sixties’ shapes.

Velvet is silky and opulent on PJ suits and sixties-inspired dresses. Modern Art movements inspire beautifully artistic prints and colour block shapes, from surrealist landscapes to Bauhaus clean lines.

Of course, there’s drama for evening wear as the dark palette goes partially sheer in chiffons, with embellishment, feathers, chiffons and satins in long, languid shapes.

As well as red, key seasonal colours include petrol, viridian, dove grey, nude peach and French mustard.

Lace-up shoes and boots are a must. Welcome to the new and wonderful world of fashion.