Borrowed Times

By Vivienne Palmer

Fashion is a language of sorts, a way of expressing oneself. Unlike language, which is rooted in geography, fashion is rooted in eras. This fall features looks borrowed from the ages … all the ages, it seems.

I have searched for the lingua franca that ties this season together, but it is variety that defines this fall’s looks. What color is trending? All of them. What era is making a comeback? Pick one. Menswear borrows from womenswear. Womenswear is inspired by menswear. Honestly, this season is all over the place.

The good news is that with so much to choose from, anyone can find inspiration. The bad news is that this year’s extreme variety adds up to a nearly lethal dose of information overload.

Fashion can be heavenly for the initiated or hellish for the lost. I’ll be Virgil and guide you out of the inner rings of fashion-confusion hell and into the heavenly sartorial playground, such as it is in Boulder County.

Anything Goes

fashion ages 2Prints and textures are all over the place this season, and excess is key. Clothing designers borrow from interior design with Moroccan rugs, crazy quilts and brocades. It’s thoroughly mixed media, with découpages of horizontal lines, florals, fur, leather and lace.

Gone are the cute animal prints of yesteryear; 2015 is fashion’s Year of the Dragon, with Chinese beasts adorning evening dresses. All that glisters may not be gold, but you can bet it will be a metallic fabric, sequined netting or shimmering sheer. And velvet, always a fall fashion staple, shows up in wrap skirts, coats, slouchy trousers and plunging jumpsuits.

Apparently the top designers haven’t gotten the message from PETA, because fur is still in. It’s less an all-over look and more about fur trim in unexpected places. Stoles, pelts, furry oversize pockets, hirsute collars, fleecy epaulettes and fuzzy bustlines are in. Be it mink, fox or Persian lamb, no animal is too adorable or innocent to escape the clutches of the runway. But this is Boulder, and I’d love to be a fly on the wall when a woman waltzes into Whole Foods in a full-length fur coat.

Reds, golds, stark modern colors on solid backgrounds … it’s all good as long as it is bold, bold, bold. For men the old standby army green shows up in several incarnations, from fastidious uniform-inspired suits to a mountaineering take on streetwear. My hunch is that men will say yes to green, but will be wary of trendy all-over prints.

Extraordinary Lengths

Designers take coats to new lengths with this season’s offering of lower calf– to floor-skimming models. Varsity-striped capes and ponchos and shiny, big-shouldered bomber jackets will inspire the more fashionably daring and less practical dresser, but may not make the cut with the everyday Boulderite. Ever try to wear a backpack with a cape, or hike in a full-length coat?

The men’s outerwear trend of the season reflects how men really dress. Have a lot of coats in your closet? Wear them all! The runways are going crazy with layering, even for men. Be it an anorak under a long coat or a down insulation layer under an jacket, now is the outerwear-obsessed’s day in the sun. Women have been mixing lengths for ages, but now it’s time for men to try an untucked shirt with a short vest and a long overcoat over jeans. Call it the elongated midlayer.

Designers are pushing statement overcoats in mohair and bouclé to give an edge to tailored cuts, but does it come in GoreTex? A Boulder statement coat usually smacks of The North Face or Patagonia, not the runway.

The Ages

This fall, inspiration borrows from many eras. Channel your 19th-century Victorian queen with black lace, high necks and sheer-paneled décolletages. Ravishing slit-all-the-way-up-to-there lace evening dresses are perfect for that BMoCA gala, and draped layers over lace pants are pure modern romance.

Unleash your ’80s glamazon with glitzy sequined cocktail dresses, in-your-face geometric prints, raglan sleeves and big shoulder pads. Or relive the ’90s in a bounty of new and unexpected ways. The body-conscious slip dress gets a makeover in color blocks and racy double slits. The traditional lingerie staple provides a dash of femininity when you layer a slip dress over pants and a baby T and top it with a soft coat. Women around here haven’t stopped layering dresses over pants since Jerry Garcia was alive, and they aren’t about to stop now.

The future is always bright with sleek and modern silhouettes, hyper color hues and sci-fi–inspired prints. The woman of the future apparently favors bare shoulders and strapless tops. I guess all that yoga is going to come in handy.

Statement Shirts

When dressing, a lot of us start with a shirt and move down. This year the shirt takes center stage with bow-tied necklines, Victorian frilled collars and sheer inserts at the collarbone. The classic shirt has never had so much attention as it’s all about more, more, more: more volume, longer sleeves, detailed cuffs, sheer insets, interesting plackets, high necklines and pointy collars. And then you layer it under a cropped vest or tank top. Remember that elongated midlayer menswear is playing with? It’s for women, too.

Boulder County men will rejoice to hear that neckties are out and cozy turtlenecks are in. The turtleneck sweater became the go-to suit pairing last fall. Will they love the elongated cuffs and feminine drapey tunics? Only time will tell. If ever there was a place (other than Paris, Milan and New York) where men would embrace their femininity, it’s Boulder. But we’ll see.


Good tailoring never goes out of style, and ditto to menswear-inspired style. Nothing is as vampy and feminine as a woman in a killer suit. Think Bacall, think Dietrich, think the suicide blonde. Pant lengths vary, as do the volumes: capri, floor-skimming, wide and pencil legs—pair them with a matching top and you’re good to go. There is no one defining look, more like a broad spectrum of choice with single- and double-breasted jackets, shawl collars, tuxedos, corduroy and printed fabrics. It’s all over the place and if a woman is inclined to wear a suit, this fall is a great year to try it out. But will she?

Devil in the Details

Clothing is heavily detailed this year, with big buttons and oversize safari pockets in contrasting fabrics and fur. Patterned tights are a quick and low-cost way of updating your existing wardrobe, and a wide velvet choker will create the Victorian look for almost nothing. Part punk-rock embellishment and military-officer decoration, clustered pins embellish men’s outerwear.

Boulder is on top of the tribal look, with many of its denizens already sporting nose rings and dermals. If you don’t want to make that kind of commitment, statement earrings will do the trick. The flip side of boho is sexy, nerdy librarian glasses.

Shoes are both fabulously practical and fantastically not. Check out the chunky-heeled boots that extend up to the lower or mid-calf—perfect for cooler temperatures and a snap to pair with skirts and pants.

Then there’s the pelted footwear that reminds me of the Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Whether flat or heeled, they look like extra-furry slippers and are the antithesis of practical. The Wookie slides likely won’t catch on, but edgy and urban combat-inspired boots will feel right at home.

Will local fashionistas embrace the new looks, or will they default to yoga pants and a fleece? My guess is that it will be some of both. But for those so inclined, fall 2015 is a veritable playground of fashion fun.

Vivienne Palmer has been following Boulder fashion since 1990, when she moved to the Front Range as a teenager. She has two boys, and is a writer, blogger and pole-dance enthusiast.