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Autumn opulence

We are bidding goodbye to the days of minimalist "less is more" dressing. Fashion has taken a new turn. "More is more" comes closer to describing this season's lap-of-luxury clothes. For, even without taking into account the abundance of ultrarich new styles and their sumptuous materials, nearly everything new this year comes in extra-generous helpings.

The move toward opulence, a directional change that began taking place last winter with the dressy parties that ushered in the Reagan era, has brought costumery to the fore. The royal wedding, another occasion for outward display, only heightened the mood.

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So courtiers anc cavaliers, Shakespearean and operatic heroines, piratical movie stars (Errol Flynn, for one), Anna Karenina, and a host of others have all been called forth. The field of fashion is filled with extravagantly puffed sleeves, flowing scarves, bouffant skirts, plumed hats, court breeches, washbuckling botts, gold and silver lace, and a great deal of black velvet.

For good measure, there are echoes of more recent romantic eras, bringing such screen idols as Fred Astaire and Marilyn Monroe into the fashion picture. His casual chic keeps classic dress on the map -- her famous look keeps slinky drapery in currency. In addition, folkloric fashions, in abeyance for a time, are back in force. Scandinavian, Oriental, and American Indian motifs as well as mixes of peasant patterns are going trends.

To most shoppers, the main difference will be in volume. Where (not long ago) a few yards of fabric was sufficient, now entire bolts appear, to have been gathered, pleated, draped, or otherwise given full play. Instead of two or three layers, four or five of the new thin wools may be superimposed, one over another. Lack of thickness is a difference, too, in this year's reedited versions of the Big Look.

Lines that were relatively static -- straight, simple, close to the body -- have become free-wheeling arcs. There is a great deal of continuous movement including whirling circular skirts and capes, sweeping shawls, dashing wide-brimmed hats, and voluminous trousers.

Although ornamentation, except for the flurry of ruffles, has held a low profile lately, the understated, low-key look has been retired. More decorative dressing is being advocated even for the business woman. Catalogs that once stressed uniformity for men's and women's clothes now make definite distinctions between what is for males and what is for females. The women are offered dirndl skirts of foulard and silk shirts with frilled, pleated collars to wear with their cleanly tailored jackets. Instead of regulation tweed or flannel, the jacket may be of braid-trimmed velveteen or of one of the new, soft leathers.

A gleaming thread of metallic runs through the entire fall/winter scene, for daytime as well as evening. The finery is more studiously and more beautifully detailed. A wealth of embroidery, hand-painting, applique, braid, metallic piping, lace, tucking, and trapunto work embellishes this year's clothes.

To complement the largess of volume and richness, there are bold, impressive accessories. Gloves, which have had a negligible fashion standing, have been reinstated. Newest are the gauntlets with wide, decorative cuffs. Massive pieces of gold jewelry, capacious handbags, and, above all, the wide belt that controls the fullness of this year's clothes add extra panache.

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Prints have also been through the enlarging process. Paisleys and tartans, leading the scene along with stripes, have grown to near-gigantic proportions. The horse blanket plaid, a strong thoroughbred pattern this year, is more sizable than ever.

Aside from shots of Nancy Reagan's signature red, colors this year are muted, deep, often inky dark, with paisleys and plaids taking the tones of ancient madder silks and wools.

No matter what one's tastes, taking a small-minded stand in addressing one's wardrobe will simply not do in this age of silver-spoon fashions.

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