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Looks to look for

Quietly, subtlety, country French is coming back to the fashion foreground of home furnishings. Influences from all over the countryside are stealing the spotlight in wovens and prints.

The stock market may be melting, but fabrics in the new century are more opulent, richer and more luxurious than even. Think precious fibers, new constructions, lots of metallic yarns and just wonderfully elegant looks-albeit made to work with today's lifestyles.

There's been so much casual over the last decade that a return to traditional design has been almost inevitable. This market, the finely drawn designs of jacquards and prints offer new fashion looks. Classic damasks and brocades are updated with 21st-century color and scale that could be called dramatic. Call them tree-of-life, toiles, botancials or just wonderful florals and viney looks.

Embroideries and stitchery of all kinds from real crewels to faux looks created in prints and jacquards are abundant at this market. Even appliques and innovative constructions using raffia and metallic yarns are part of the trend to a more contemporary, but still classical fashion statement.

It's been the rage for nearly a decade, and now fresher looks are in the spotlight. But don't rule out the simpler, casual looks that offer a neutral, safe haven.

The decorative fabrics business has rediscovered its sense of humor with a new wave of fun, spirited, whimsical and just devil-may-care approaches to design.

Color it bold, and scale it in a similar mode. Bold, dramatic looks with a fresh twist offer new excitement. They're showing up in classic motifs translated into a modern idiom and well as a renaissance of retro looks and creative contemporary motifs.

Lest anyone attempt to ignore chenille, this ubiquitous yarn is being used in new ways that again bring it into the fashion forefront. The basic chenilles are price-driven, the innovative ones are the way to go.

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