(c) 2011, The Washington Post.

(c) 2011, The Washington Post.

Wearing leather was once an all-or-nothing fashion statement. (Think biker gangs, 1980s hair bands and loin-cloth-loving cave persons.) But thanks to improved technology, hides can now be shaved into thin, supple-as-velvet material and dyed hues (metallics, gem tones) far more refined than Harley black. Designers also are combining skin and fabric on the same garment blouses with leather collars, jeans with suede tuxedo stripes turning the bad-girl staple into a work-to-weekend favorite.

"The mix of leather and fabric is softer and more elegant than full-on leather," says wardrobe consultant Tara Luizzi, of Tara Styles DC in Washington. "You no longer have to look like a dominatrix."

_ White Striped: A hide panel toughens up a Milly leather combo dress ($395, www.millyny.com) in doubleweave crepe. Worn with a David Aubrey necklace and Julie Collection earrings, and Elizabeth and James platform wedges ($275, Couture.Zappos.com, available in black and cognac).

_ Haute Around the Collar: Tibi's blouse pairs lace with leather ($425, Piperlime.com). Shown with a Joie leather skirt ($458, Piperlime.com) and a chunky necklace, ring and bracelet).

_ Skinnies in Skin: Rag & Bone faux-leather mid-rise metallic jeans ($198, Bloomingdale's stores, Bloomingdales.com and other deparment stores), Alice + Olivia blouse ($264, Bloomingdales.com), Botkier's crossbody Lucy bag ($295, Amazon.com) and Mark + James Mark+James by Badgley Mischka pumps ($275, Bloomingdales.com).

_ Biker Chic: June's drapey jacket ($690, Betsy Fisher boutique in Washington and BetsyFisher.com) tops a Rebecca Taylor dress ($395, Bloomingdales.com). Shown with Rebecca Minkoff booties ($325, Zappos.com) and David Aubrey earrings.

_ Leg Upper: Free People's leather shorts ($98, Piperlime.com) rock out with an Aqua tribal wrap shirred blouse ($78, Bloomingdales.com), fuzzy vest ($74, from Urban Chic in Washington) and Ivanka Trump suede and leather boots ($299, Nordstrom.com).

bc-fashion-leather (TPN)