Angling to entice holiday shoppers, America's mass-market retailers recently introduced enough cool-weather looks and accessories to fill dozens of wish lists. We previewed their offerings -- from chunky LOFT sweaters to JCPenney cocktail rings to plenty of peacoats everywhere -- and distill the best bets below.

THE LIMITED
the limited holiday 2011 leather jacket leggings black pink yellow gen bracelet

Photos courtesy of the Limited.


DESIGNER: Elliott Staples, vice president of design

INSPIRATION: "Fall is a return to classics," Staples tells StyleList. "When you look at the runway, there was a return to old-school colors, classic shapes, camel and leopard and red, and trench coats."

TOP LOOKS: A black sequined party skirt, a black-and-gray plaid "trench" coat, bow-tied silk blouses in a collection of colors

ACCESSORIES: Fur infinity scarves; the jangly necklaces everyone is showing

WHAT WE THOUGHT: This chain is trying to appeal to an older young woman, but is styling for a younger young woman who likes to dabble at having a job (think "The City"). There are some nice pieces, but we don't think they're going to last as long as you'd like.
LOFT
ann taylor loft holiday 2011 preview fur lined jacket black trench fur hood sequin shirt

Photos courtesy of LOFT.

DESIGNER: Austyn Zung, creative director of design

INSPIRATION: "I constantly am inspired by what is happening in the world," Zung tells StyleList. "What does she want to wear? What does she want to add to her wardrobe to inspire her for the season? I like when there's a juxtaposition between high and low, casual and dressed up. Nothing is too serious."

TOP LOOKS: Chunky sweaters with fur collars, metallic brocade skirts, sleek cardigans with placed sequins

ACCESSORIES: Great grosgrain belts with fabric flowers and jewels, knee-high shearling-lined boots

WHAT WE THOUGHT: The LOFT woman is a little hipper than most of those other mall ladies. Her pants are skinnier, her boots more chunky, but she doesn't forgo formality. This is the first season the funky essence of Zung really shined through, and we like what we see. This Ann Taylor offshoot is no one's little sister anymore.

TALBOTS
talbot's holiday 2011 holiday preview pink cardigan black cropped pants gold dress rose print dress

Photos courtesy of Talbots.

DESIGNER: Michael Smaldone, chief creative officer

INSPIRATION: Comfy "winter cabin" sweaters and knits lead to gilded "glisten up" holiday frocks.

TOP LOOKS: Fitted double-face velour jacket in loads of colors; a rose-print dress -- shown with a crinoline -- that will either be on "Mad Men" or Michelle Obama; and Black Watch tartan party skirt

ACCESSORIES: The shoes have really come into their own, particularly sequined peep-toe pumps and fur-lined ankle boots.

WHAT WE THOUGHT: "It's all about roses here," Smaldone tells StyleList, adding, "I love sequins for day -- I don't think there's rules anymore. It's what your individually is." This retailer certainly gives individuals a lot of tools to work with. This is not a small collection, and each piece seems available in more than five colors. Depending on your level of style skill, you could either emerge wearing Garanimals-type outfits or cobble together chic bits that will become your faves.
JCPENNEY
jcpenney holiday 2011 preview black leather jacket beret scarf hat bpeacoat lace gold cardigan black skirt botties lace up

Photos courtesy of JCPenney.

DESIGNERS: Allen B. Schwartz (Allen B.), Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (Olsenboye), Charlotte Ronson (I Heart Ronson)

INSPIRATION: A retailer this big has several directions for the season -- "Little Red Riding Hood," "aviator," "evening sparkle," "classic" and "folk."

TOP LOOKS: This best wares are the rethought classics: peacoat with a band of pleats on the bottom, Allen B. sequined dress that goes from light to dark, black satin kilt, leather jacket with gold crackled treatment.

ACCESSORIES: With cocktail rings all the rage, JCPenney's offerings in every color and metal under the sun are perfectly priced (under $15 for most), so you can get one for every mood and party.

WHAT WE THOUGHT: There's lots to love, particularly when styled for the presentation by a professional. The trick will be to find all these gems amid mountains of holiday merchandise. But for many of these well-priced bits, the hunt is worth it.

VICTORIA'S SECRET
victoria's secret red black bow bed shorts and cami holiday 2011

Photo courtesy of Victoria's Secret.

DESIGNER: Victoria's Secret design team

INSPIRATION: For the apparel, there was a little "Midnight Astrology" mixed with "The Golden Compass." The lingerie was pure fantasy.

TOP LOOKS: Skinny (and sexy) jeans, and of course, great pajama sets, our fave being the camisole-and-tap-pants combo

ACCESSORIES: Super boots with ankle straps

WHAT WE THOUGHT: You wouldn't know Victoria's Secret makes clothing unless you were a catalog customer, but it's cute and well-priced. However, everything pales in comparison with the lingerie. The company's merchandisers knew customers were using the pieces for sexy "costumes," so they put together "Lingerie Stewardess," "Cow Girl," "Angel" (complete with wings), and "Naughty Bride" looks in time for Halloween, plus "Santa Baby" for the holiday. Ho-ho-hot!
AMERICAN EAGLE
american eagle holiday 2011 preview green fur collar jacket leopard coat aviator shearling leather

Photos courtesy of American Eagle.


DESIGNER: The team at American Eagle Outfitters

INSPIRATION: "Oh, the weather outside is frightful," so bundle up inside with copious knits and sweaters.

TOP LOOKS: Cardigan "jackets" with toggle closures, peacoat with fur collar, embossed brocade dress

ACCESSORIES: Earflap caps endure with this younger set, as does the wraparound scarf.

WHAT WE THOUGHT: There are mountains of cool, roomy sweaters and fitted knits for the college-age customer. Certainly these items, along with some of the coats, scarves and hats, will make great gifts, but these kids often buy for themselves. Luckily, with a smattering of little party dresses, a few with sparkle, they'll clean up nicely too.

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