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Decade mishmash is making a splash

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The fashion flock is sending a mixed message these days.

That means teaming flowy '60s skirts with slouchy '80s boots. Seventies hobo bags with wide, hip-slung '80s belts. Forties peep-toe pumps with '70s bohemian beads. Seventies disco gold sandals with '50s circle skirts.

With so many decades woven into outfits and wardrobes, the effect is a culture-clashing, historical hodgepodge. Today's diced-up look is a departure from revivals of recent years, when retailers and fashion magazines heralded the return of whole decades: the mod and miniskirted '60s, the flared and cartoonishly lapeled '70s.

The difference now, as paraded down the runways at New York's recent Fashion Week, is that the kind of bag-to-shoes matching practiced by grandmothers has all but disappeared, as has the idea of distinct, contrived outfits.

"Nobody dresses in head-to-toe anything" anymore, says Hope Greenberg, fashion director at separates-oriented Lucky Magazine. "It's that Kate Moss/Sienna Miller style: Throw it into the pot and stir it all together."

Women are shunning not only ensembles that are all one designer or all one color, they're avoiding outfits that entirely echo one decade: a floppy hat, a peasant top, embroidered jeans and Frye boots, for instance. The goal is to avoid looking like you're wearing a Halloween costume -- or heading to a casting call for a Hair revival.

Piling on the layers of time is also a hallmark of fashion-forward retailer, whose electronic look book shows, in part, how to merge disparate decades. The resulting outfits have "a lot more dimension and uniqueness and talking points," company stylist Alle Fister says.

She points to Jessica Simpson's smorgasbord style at a London press event for The Dukes of Hazzard: a black, floor-length dress with Victorian-inspired crochet at the neckline, a beaded necklace with navel-grazing pendant and a pair of mod black boots. "There were so many different influences coming into one outfit. That's what I think we're going to see a lot of."

With no new, unique look having emerged in recent years, the tossed-and-tangled-threads trend might prove the defining style of the '00s. "We're seeing lots of pieces from different decades, but it's the way you put it together now that makes it look 2005," says Laura McDowell, T.J. Maxx's fashion spokeswoman. Instead of pairing, say, gauchos with ruffled blouses and Dorothy Hamill haircuts, One Day at a Time-style, McDowell suggests topping the billowy pants with fitted '50s jackets.

Here are three fall outfits, their contrasting components analyzed according to where they sit on the sartorial timeline.

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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