Photos courtesy of the Gap

DESIGNER: Patrick Robinson, executive vice president of global design

INSPIRATION: "Holiday this year is about falling in love with something for yourself and buying it for someone else," Robinson tells StyleList.

TOP LOOKS: Knit biker jacket with faux shearling collar, chic little shirts with cool drapey shapes

ACCESSORIES: Sparkle! Sequin totes, silver gym bags, and backpacks

WHAT WE THOUGHT: Robinson is working hard to evolve this brand from a weekend wardrober to the one source customers can draw from for daily choices for work, going out, and casual wear. This collection is modern, urban, and well designed in blacks, grays, and whites. Still, there are plenty of sweaters and knit layering pieces to choose from (and give as gifts). "Holiday is still all about sweaters that you layer with soft knits and silks," Robinson said.

club monaco holiday 2011 preview grey cape coat carters beige shag sweater cropped pants shirt dress lace up booties

Photos courtesy of Club Monaco.

DESIGNER: Caroline Belhumeur, vice president of women's design

INSPIRATION: Vintage jackets from markets on London's Portobello Road, with menswear and military influences

TOP LOOKS: We love the long shirtwaist dresses, coats of all variations, and the fabrics -- tweeds, flannels, and plush sweater knits.

ACCESSORIES: Though there's a great Club Monaco brand leopard-print bag, the best bits are from outside vendors – Aigle boots, James Coviello hats, Sigerson Morrison shoes.

WHAT WE THOUGHT: The Club Monaco customer is "somebody who likes fashion but not somebody who is into fast fashion," Belhumeur tells StyleList. Holiday "used to be office wear or party wear, but people dress differently now." And Club Monaco looks different now -- whereas it once offered a couple of pieces you wanted for a season, it has grown into a true collection that feels quite luxurious for its affordable price points.

old navy holiday 2011 preview fair isle belted cardigan brown toggle hood coat pink grey white argyle cardigan

Photos courtesy of Old Navy

DESIGNER: Old Navy design team

INSPIRATION: It's a joyous season of brights!

TOP LOOKS: Sweaters, particularly in the delightful bright colors. And there's a really fresh-looking striped shirt, again in every color under the sun.

ACCESSORIES: This retailer is getting in on the act of doing ornate jewelry at a price. We're not yet sold -- it seems like a half-baked attempt.

WHAT WE THOUGHT: The collection really felt like fashion for fall instead of a couple of pieces it wants to sell thousands of. However, for holiday, it's back in the separates boat. The lure of gift giving, and the promise of commerce it brings, is all powerful. Still, the must-haves are there: Sweaters? Check. Fun outerwear? Check. A fashiony striped tee that could be a twofer? Check.

In related news, read about Heidi Klum and Ann Taylor's recent holiday party.