NEW YORK – Look out, preppies. The peasants are uprising and they're looking good doing it, too.
This fall, '80s-inspired fashions will face competition from earthier '60s styles as the masses tire of the me-generation look. Prissy pearls, polo shirts and logo bags will retreat to the closet as chunky earrings, frilly blouses and plain leather purses re-emerge.
But "glam" is not gone, and eclectic items such as lace-up corsets defy anyone's attempt to sum up the season with a simple catch phrase.
Confused? If autumn's vast selection of styles has you unsure if you're a mod schoolgirl or a sexy sailor, here's a primer on the basics:
"The off-the-shoulder long-sleeved peasant top is the most important and influential silhouette for fall," says Jane magazine market director Elizabeth Keister.
The delicate, girly blouse perpetuates the shoulder-baring look that was popular in this summer's tank tops and bathing suits, but has a softer line for a more feminine look.
"It's sexy without being overt in that overexposed Britney Spears kind of way," Keister says.
But the bohemian look (perhaps inspired by the bleak economy?) consists of more than just peasant blouses.
Marie Claire senior market editor Stacey Mayesh expects "romantic gypsy" styles to develop throughout the fall. Be on the lookout for lace, ruffles, velvet and deep purple.
And for those interested in dangerous liaisons, the corset, which once consisted of wooden splints and steel, is back for the post-feminist crowd. The push-up-bra-in-a-shirt, updated for the new millennium, safely creates a slender illusion.
She's Got Legs
Mini-skirts are back, but this time the high hemlines are accompanied by lower waistlines, making the 21st century mini even more revealing than in the past. This fall's style offers not only a load of leg but a flash of midriff as well. Think Twiggy meets Destiny's Child.
Too chilly to bare all that skin? Grab a pair of low-waist jeans or cords, still popular among the tight and toned. Denim is trendiest when spruced up with splatter paint and shades of faded color.
Step On It
"Boots are the single most important accessory for fall," says Jane's Keister.
But more important than the actual boot is the heel. Footwear is feeble this season if not complete with a built-in weapon — the stab-him-if-he's-fresh stiletto.
Not used to walking on stilts? Riding boots emerge this season as the sensible woman's alternative to heels.
For a more playful look, hop-skip-jump back in time and get a pair of Mary Jane's. The updated version of the demure schoolgirl shoe features a high, chunky heel — and provides a great starting point for building a back-to-work wardrobe. Pair with a pleated skirt for the complete Lolita look.
"The blazer is the new jean jacket," says Old Navy's Alex Cohan.
It seems like just yesterday that Julia Roberts and other '80s starlets got macho in traditionally male blazers and jeans. But don't call it a comeback. Girlshop.com founder Laura Eisman says today's blazers, as well as other '80s fashions, are "filtered through the second time around" — as in no shoulder pads
Giddy-Up: Madonna Does It Again
The Material Girl's latest incarnation is as urban cowgirl, and the adoring mainstream is catching on. John Wayne-style Western belts are the latest addition to this year's belt-mania, and old-school cowboy boots have been spotted on the streets.
The upscale or "equestrian" version of this trend is more preppy than punk. Marie Claire's Mayesh describes the look, which features jodhpur-inspired slacks and camel-colored sweaters, as "sophisticated — chic and conservative."
Rock the Boat
Yet another key look this fall is sailor chic. Mayesh says nautical-inspired pea coats and caps and anything in red, white or navy is hip and sassy. Wide-legged pants, striped shirts, gold stars and chunky knits in navy and white are also coming to stores near you.
So this fall it's tough to go wrong. Pick a few pieces from your favorite decade or a couple of choice accessories and use them to spruce up the wardrobe you already have.