By Carolyn Bahm
Style bows to seven letters this spring. The four F’s are flirty, feminine, fitted and with a nod to the trendy ’60s and ’70s retro craze funky. A trio of D’s also have their day: Denim, denim and more denim.
“Denim is here to stay,” Christi Basil said firmly. She is manager of Four Seasons dress shop in New Albany.
Denims and cottons will dominate leisure wear, according to Karen Harrison, buyer for Mary’s Fashions Inc. in Tupelo. “It will be skirts and vests and dresses and jumpers that you just slip on. It’s just going to cool and easy.”
The lightweight denim won’t have the stiffness of Levi’s. Instead, it will wear like a soft and supple cotton, Harrison said. “Dresses and jumpers have more body to them.”
Sculpted silhouettes, flirty skirts
Shaping up for another major trend is … shape itself. Designers are having a fit with the season’s body-hugging styles. Tailoring is close to the torso and flaring toward the hemline, Harrison said.
When you’ve got the “Been there, worn that,” blues, chuck the billowing palazzo pants and the drooping prairie dresses for a while. Invest in the cleaner, neater silhouette of spring. The freedom and swing of the season are at the fuller, free-flowing hemline.
And spring 1996 is definitely the season of the skirt, whatever the fabric used.
Allison Caldwell, owner of Emi’s in Pontotoc, agreed. “Skirts are full and swingy looks. There’s a lot of rayon in skirts, and that gives movement.”
A popular knee-length skirt echoes the theme with its A-line silhouette. Called the “flirt skirt,” the style is just a little more feminine, Harrison said.
Trumpet skirts, longer versions of the same silhouette with more deeply flaring hemlines, are also being revived, Caldwell said.
This season, fashion hounds can size up the long and the short of it. Length matters just as much as the flippant fit does. Briefer skirt versions will still be in for the leggy look, but dresses are showing up in longer and longer lengths, Harrison said.
Mid-calf and even longer dresses are popular, especially in the straight looks.
The longer lengths of skirts in general recalls previous seasons’ “column dresses,” and longer dresses are popular in prints and tiebacks (with sashes), said Kay Cayson, co-owner of Cayson’s Inc. in Nettleton.
Evening wear continues the longer silhouette: Jumpsuits in dressy creped polyester are perfect, said Lois Jones, Tupelo manager for Casual Corner.
Retro madness clicks around the clock with the new lengths and fits. Recall the days of Jackie O. with the classic sheath dress and crisp little jackets. Look for low-scooped backs and hidden zippers, Harrison said. Neckline-to-hem buttoned dresses also will be summer gold mines.
Cayson’s favorites for sleek chic include carefree sun dresses, as well as miniskirts worn with button-front vests, sans blouses.
Casual fun goes back to that funky ’60s and ’70s beat: A black jumper with a retro silvery front zipper can be dressed up or down, Jones said. “It just depends on what you put with it.”
From an acid palette to frosty pastels
Icy pastels in petal-soft pink and sky blue this spring will make way for a blistering summer palette. Juicy brights will put the squeeze on style with vivid citrus shades. The rainbow of colors will be relieved by the flat contrast of classic, seasonless neutrals permeating the fashion background.
Fall back on the neutral tones for a little low-key relief. “Black and white is a big story again,” Basil said.
Combinations of black with either white or cream are hot sellers in stripes and windowpane patterns, Caldwell said. Fall’s Earth Mother influence also extends into spring with favorite tones of adobe, terra-cotta, coral and yellow tones.
At Casual Corner, neutrals tone down the tempo in navy and off-white suits, Jones said. The store also takes a bite out of brights with zingy jacket colors topping simple sheaths “the basic black dress” that can be dressed up or down.
Jones said, “The wonderful thing about this is you can change your jacket and have a whole new dress.”
Blouses in soft white cotton piquŽ (a durable ribbed fabric) are naturals paired with the season’s separates, Harrison said, and some versions have cuffed sleeves. T-shirts in hues from mango and goldenrod to powder-puff pink and ivory virtually any color will layer with sporty cotton vests.
PiquŽ also will appear in short-fitted jackets and even white piquŽ pants, Caldwell said.
Linen/cotton blends are the most popular, Cayson said, but two-piece sueded rayon dressing is another spring fabrication. Jones also predicted linens as the season’s trailblazers. For Basil, ramie and cotton pieces vie for prominence alongside linen pieces.
Skim the surface of different fabric textures, Caldwell advised. “Satin is a new fabric (for spring) that you’ll be seeing more of.”
Look for satin in shirts and especially in skirts of white, cream or pale pink, worn with a simple blouse, she said.
Mixing textures and styles is part of spring’s fashion jolt, according to Basil. Look for denim layers paired with printed pieces in rayon and challis. “You’re going to say they don’t match, but they’re layered and that’s how they’re wearing them.”
The gotta-get-it fever
Several area merchants advised on good buys for spring wardrobes:
– Anything in red, white and blue. Basil said the true-blue American colors will emerge during the Summer Olympics and during the heat of this year’s presidential election. The flag was last year’s hot patriotic theme, and Basil has already bought Republican and Democratic sweaters for this fall.
In other tailoring, salute a red and navy theme with an added dash of gold accenting this summer freshness, Harrison said.
– A straight denim skirt. It will go with everything, Harrison said.
– Skorts (shorts with a skirt-like flap in front). Choose cotton skorts with hemlines somewhere between knee-length and short-shorts in solids, prints and plaids, Cayson said.
– Flip skirts and other flaring hemlines. Basil said even simple chemises with fullness starting about four inches before the hem will qualify for high fashion marks. “Straight has been big for so long.”
– Printed flair skirts. These look like A-line skirts but are fuller, Cayson said. Some versions have flips at the bottoms.
– The denim vest. It’s one of the most popular items, Cayson said.
– A sweater set. Red is leading the pack so far, Jones said, but classic cream sweaters and black twin sweater sets are also strong sellers.
“Knit dressing feels good, but it looks sharp and it’s easy to care for,” she said.
Basil also recommended the sweaters and twin sweater sets as spring best-buys. Buy black if you’re limited to just one sweater set purchase, she said. “It mixes with so much.”
– Themed sweaters, especially vests. Harrison predicts renewed spring interest in that perennial Southern favorite decorative patterned cotton sweaters or vests paired with matching walking shorts, often in gingham checks and pinstripes. About the look, she said, “I think it’s always been here and it’s always going to be here.”
Cayson said the short sleeveless sweater vest will be a spring staple, worn as a solo top or with T-shirt layering.
– Sleeveless tops. It’s not the most flattering style for flabby upper arms, but those with muscle definition can show off their dedication to gym workouts in this cool style. “It’s a big thing again,” Basil said. “You’re going to be seeing a ton of sleeveless.”
– Dresses with “popover” tops. Caldwell described these fresh-as-a-daisy styles as empire-waistlined dresses with bodices sewn to give the effect of short, attached jackets.
– A tailored suit with a slightly shorter skirt. Nothing beats a suit for career dressing, Jones said. The store’s smattering of soft pink suits are popular in other locations, but she said pastels don’t sell well in the South. Instead, Jones recommends suits in red, yellow, royal blue and navy as best choices. Many of the suit jackets are worn buttoned with a wispy print scarf tucked into the neckline; the added layer of a blouse is optional.
– “Wardrobe” suits. These sets include a jacket, pants, skirt and sometimes also a vest, Jones said. “This is really going to be your best investment.”
– A linen blazer. “Just throw it over everything,” Harrison said. It will be paired with skirts, dresses and even walking shorts this season. Best buy: Khaki-toned linen in a burlap-like rough weave.
“You’re going to be able to throw on a jacket to go to the movies, and two days later you’ll be able to wear it to church,” Harrison said. “And that’s nice.”