THE world's leading designers appear to have come up with a uniform set of elements for their autumn/winter fashion collections. It seems to have been universally agreed that nostalgia is necessary and everyone is borrowing from the elegant 1950s and 1960s. This means lady-like suits with constructed jackets that are cinched at the waist, worn with knee-length skirts (heaven forbid anyone should consider another length). Short jackets, which button up to a demure collar, are a favourite, although last season's belted jacket is still lingering and long, slim styles are also permitted. Three-quarter-length sleeves, a la Audrey Hepburn, are a popular design detail. Pencil-slim skirts get the largest vote, closely followed by A-line styles and slightly flared skirts to go with belted jackets. For trousers, almost anything goes, though cigarette-leg shapes tend to lead the pack. Another indisputable tenet is that simplicity rules and this is especially evident in the Jackie O-inspired dress and jacket ensembles in which dresses are pared down to minimal shapes, usually sleeveless. Hipsters are also creeping back into some collections, in both skirts and trousers. A perfect match for the tapered skirts is the season's hottest knitwear item - the twinset. Skinny ribbed or body-hugging stretch knitwear is also popular. Traditional fabrics hold their own in suitings and coats and boucle is enjoying something of a revival. Shine continues to shine on, expressed predominantly through satin which moves into daywear. A host of modern, shiny fabrics encompass pvc, vinyl, patent or wet-look leather, metallic treatments and mock croc. Wetsuit material has established itself as the most innovative fabric for mainstream use. Fake fur adorns collars and turns up on cuffs (quite literally when the lining of a coat is all in faux fur). It adds a touch of glamour to suits. Animal prints, on the other hand, are pure whimsy and, this season, they expand their horizons beyond the conventional leopard effects to a new black and white design, identified variously as pony, dalmation or cow. Real leather is a winter staple and this season sees it mixed with knit in the same garment for a more interesting effect. Velvet is less important than in recent years, but still has a solid presence, and chiffon is a useful tool of the trade. Reigning supreme in the colour palette is red in all its guises, while brown tones present a challenge to black as the season's staple. Pastels are still strong, blue playing a minor role and neon brights sometimes flashing up. Patterns are low-profile but black, and white checks are most noticeable, and Argyle returns with renewed vigour. Knee-length boots are the essential footwear accessory to go with knee-length skirts but high heels are also important to impart an air of elegance. Belts have been widened slightly and bags tend to be more structured this season. Patent and mock croc are still strong.