Originally published September 3, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Page modified September 6, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Seattle fashion: mix it up!

Given the way seasons bleed into one another here, you can wear anything at almost anytime, which makes dressing for the ever-variable weather of fall an endeavor only as limited as one's imagination.


ON A CHILLY, dreary Saturday night in June that felt more like fall than summer, a chattering crowd turned out for a trunk show by the fashion incubator Marta Kappl House of Fashion, whose up-and-coming designers seemed to tap into the region's eclectic, idiosyncratic sensibility while offering a refreshing dose of glamour.

"Seattle's a city where you can wear anything anywhere," designer Katie Chrisman says while reviewing her collection at the show, held to promote Seattle's young design talent and build support for reviving the city's fashion and apparel-manufacturing industries.

Given the way seasons bleed into one another here, she might add that in Seattle, you can wear anything at almost anytime, which makes dressing for the ever-variable weather of fall an endeavor only as limited as one's imagination.

Versatility is the name of the game here.

Chrisman points to one of her skirts, made in a medium-weight, golden-hued cotton velveteen with a racy black-and-gold zipper up the back. It would work just as well on a date night with high heels or, as Chrisman suggests, "with leggings to go out for coffee in the morning." Her luxurious women's pea coat, with epaulets and leather trim, looks comfy enough for an autumn stroll but boasts the sort of super-sharp tailoring you'd want for a night on the town.

Jessica Alexander brought her "unique but simple" line of jewelry and other accessories, a shabby-chic blend of vintage lace, ribbon, sustainably harvested bird feathers, hand-dyed rabbit fur and gemstones, all reflecting her love of layering textures and colors, an interest that is perfectly in line with fall dressing in the Northwest.

Meanwhile, Chinese-born Liang Zhou demonstrated her love of Chanel with a very proper jacket and matching skirt in a tweedy black-and-white material that looked warm enough for autumn but was lined in bright, multihued silk, a springy nod to the Far East that might make Karl Lagerfeld break a smile.

Combined with couture-house founder Marta Kappl's own grown-up, tailored dresses and coats, the overall impression was of a show for women who have moved beyond the girlie looks of recent years to something more polished but still interesting.

The trend is national, not just regional.

Gregg Andrews, a fashion director for Nordstrom, sees a return to "volume and fullness" this fall, a strong but feminine look reminiscent of silhouettes from the 1970s, '60s and '40s.

"There's a huge trend that I think you can call 'retro-femininity,' " Andrews says.

That means wider-cut rather than super-skinny trousers, natural rather than low-slung waistlines, below-the-knee hemlines, more masculine fabrics like tweed and wool but done in lighter weights, and the reappearance of dramatic elements like capes and ponchos, along with ever-popular jackets and coats.

"Coats are much more tailored now — and they quite frequently have dressmaker touches to make them look special," Andrews says.

Outerwear elements like flapped pockets, epaulets, belts and striking colors, such as "a whole palette of reds" are big right now, Andrews says, as are neutral tones such as camel and charcoal.

"Women no longer own just one black coat," Andrews says. "Now women own a wardrobe of coats." The capes and ponchos hitting stores this fall simply add a new dimension to the trend.

"It's all about that sense of luxury, and it's about having something you don't already own," Andrews says, noting a renewed interest in fur (the faux variety).

Whether or not Voss Rock designer Andrea Voss intended to strike all those trend notes in her recent collections, many of the looks she sent down the runway at Seattle Fashion Week this spring — and captured at a recent photo shoot near her home studio in Everett — channel the prevailing spirit in women's fashion.

Her rock- and sci-fi-inspired, full-length dresses and coats, with their dramatic necklines, corseting and leather, faux-fur and reflective trims, are made for elegant women who don't mind capturing the spotlight.

Voss' noirish crimson trench coat, with a theatrical, chin-grazing, asymmetrical collar and peaked shoulders, hits the seasonal trends in a big way but still has a timeless, femme-fatale sexiness.

"A classic piece is something you can wear all the time," Voss says of her design philosophy.

"Sophisticated/edgy" is how one of Voss' models, Alexandria Shivell, describes the Voss Rock look.

It's an apt description for Voss' aesthetic but also a fitting way to sum up a region that always seems to be between seasons and whose style mavens like mixing things up.

Tyrone Beason is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. Ellen M. Banner is a Seattle Times staff photographer.