Just which decade is coming back? Is it the '60s or is it really the late '50s? And surely those Norma Kamali bell-bottoms and crop tops are straight out of the '70s. And what's this about long, full-skirted dresses from the '40s being the new cutting edge?
Just where is spring fashion going?
The answer: Just about anywhere you want.
No one silhouette dominates this season. Snug scuba dresses with big, bold zippers are just as influential as loose, silk tent dresses that camouflage it all.
The most prevalent hemline is above the knee, but the young and the trendy who've done the '60s micro mini trip have moved on to the post-war era of romantic cinched-waist dresses.
The most significant distinction to be made between this spring and last is the explosion of color. You could almost wear any style from any year, and as long as the colors were imaginatively juxtaposed, you'd be in style.
In living color. All-black dressing is starting to look very drab beside the newest color combinations of turquoise and lime and orange and fuchsia.
You'll also see plenty of bold orange and yellow reminiscent of the mod decade, and classic red, white and navy given a modern twist in Mondrian color blocking.
For those who just can't give up black, graphic black-and-white prints offer possibilities in checkerboards, stripes and polka dots.
Shades of pale. With so many bright shades competing for attention, pale colors have added impact this season, especially when accented with white stockings and accessories. (Sheer black hose may be flattering, but pale sheers and nude legs are looking a lot fresher this season.)
Dress-ing up. Since most women already have their share of short skirts and long jackets, designers are focusing their attention this season on the dress, offering the greatest selection in years. The leading favorite is the sheath, most
fashionably accompanied by a seven-eighths jacket, but chemises, trapezes and cropped shirtwaist dresses follow close behind.
Jackets required. Still. The big difference this spring, however, is that they're often longer, almost coat-length and worn over a dress rather than a skirt, but you'll see all lengths. The short boxy jacket over slim skirt is a popular silhouette that conjures up memories of Jackie O and is usually accompanied by strings of oversized pearls and demure little white gloves.
Who's wearing the pants? Quite a few women are, but no revolutionary changes have taken place. Sleek and slim still holds center court, and leggings refuse to disappear. The newest twist is to combine pants with a printed tunic or shirt with the tails worn out.
Somebody must be wearing shorts to the office, because designers keep making them, and you'll see even more shorts for evening wear. This summer's newest twist is the short-all or romper.
Coming up daisies. And sunflowers and roses, but all with a bold flourish, as prints return, looking especially effective in the simple, clean silhouettes.
Lots of Pucci-like prints can still be found, joined now by psychedelic swirls and op art.
Patchwork and embroidery decorate many weekend outfits, and sexy Brigitte Bardot gingham and eyelet makes a return.
Take a plunge. Across the aisle from the ladylike suits and pearls, you'll be seeing scuba-inspired apparel, snug and sexy, conjuring up visions of Emma Peel in dresses and tunics and bike shorts. At Chanel, the look was done in bright blue sequins, and at Donna Karan, in stark white.
Taking cover. Remember the slicker and how it brightened up the cloudiest day? It's back, in sunny shades of red and yellow and sometimes looking rather whimsical in clear vinyl. Short, belted trench coats and A-line trapeze coats are other new rainwear options.
Open season. Crochet, lace and mesh fabrics offer new options for layering over little tank tops and slip dresses, and you'll even see mesh and fishnet stockings.
Lycra adds stretch to nearly every fabric a designer could want, but the other extremes are also represented in the popularity of crisp white pique and languid washed silk.
Night lights. Clever cutouts give an edge to this spring's party clothes. The bare shoulders and slip tops continue, but geometric back cutouts are the newest way to bare. Watch for lots of all-white and brights as black takes a back seat. And sequins? They keep on flashing.
An eye for detail. Accessories offer the quickest and safest way to try out spring's most far-fetched looks.
A pair of fishnet stockings can instantly update an outfit if the right dress is chosen, or how about a chain belt, a pair of daisy earrings, a handbag color blocked in red, white and blue or even a scarf in an op art print.
If you're not up for a jacket or skirt in patent leather, try a headband.
The shoe of the moment, the backless mule, is impractical, but it's an overwhelming favorite in every hue.
Handbags tend to be structured and geometric in shape.
Jewelry is no longer piled on, but cuff bracelets, worn in multiples of varying size, are the exception. You'll still see drop earrings of moderate length, but button shapes are definitely on the rebound.