If women buy just one fashion item for autumn 2009, let it be long leather gloves or an over-the-top hat to freshen up their wardrobes, according to style experts at New York Fashion Week.
Making a statement with unusual accessories can get consumers to spend because it is fairly easy on the budget, they said. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a couture dress, women are more likely to spend a few hundred or less on a necklace or shoes.
"Bold accessories are the most affordable way to update a wardrobe," said Constance White, style director for eBay, the online marketplace where clothes, shoes and accessories racked up more than $20 billion in gross merchandise volume last year.
Italian designer Domenico Vacca, one of hundreds of designers who showed their Fall 2009 collections at New York's semi-annual fashion event, showed gold and silver hoop earrings nearly as big as saucers.
"Why not? We love to exaggerate," he said backstage. "We love to go big."
Max Azria, Tracy Reese and Georges Chakra were among designers showing gloves to the elbow or above with day and evening wear.
"I loved the gloves. There's an elegance that's finding its way back," said Harriette Cole, creative director of Chicago-based Ebony magazine, after the Cynthia Steffe show.
Complementing the gloves were elbow- or bracelet-length sleeves on coats, sweaters and dresses.
Tory Burch, named Accessory Designer of the Year in 2008 by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said first lady Michelle Obama helped inspire the trend with the green leather gloves by J. Crew that she wore on inauguration day, January 20.
"A lot of women are looking to her for style influence," said Burch.
On the catwalks, shoes had severe straps and stilettos, biker-styled boots had slim chains and faux fur collars adorned many a coat.
"You could put that collar on an old coat and make it new again," said Yolanda Variano, who went to the Tracy Reese show to shop for her boutique Palma in New York.
Popular too were walnut-sized rings and stacked bangle bracelets.
There were also hats galore — Diane von Furstenberg's whimsical pompom-topped numbers, equestrian styles at Monarchy, knitted wool caps by Generra and wide-brimmed toppers by Toni Maticevski.