There's a sea change working its way into spring fashion.
Nautical styling, that classic, perennial springtime theme, is expanding its definition, as green livens up the traditional red, white and blue spectrum, and anchor-and-crest detailing makes way for other sea-inspired motifs, such as fish, seashells and starfish. You'll also find coral surfacing in many collections and, if you look carefully, flashes of silver accents -- in belts and jewelry -- among the new looks. But it's not only fruits de mer that will contribute to the new spectrum: citrusy island brights, fruits de terre, you might say, will provide a welcome respite for the weary.
OC Following are some of the pearls of wisdom offered by Baltimore
ANN TAYLOR This season, the strongest trends at Ann Taylor will be "longer jackets, especially windowpane plaids in Charmeuse and crepe," according to Peggy Kaufman, senior vice president.
Other styles set for spring include: tailored city short suits; shaped sheaths in soft printed crepe; A-line jackets and dresses, long-over-short looks with cardigans or riding jackets over little pleated skirts, and nautically inspired separates.
ANNAPOLIS CLOTHING Buyer Pat Bavis-Puller says the focus for spring will be on back-to-basics career clothing. Peabody blouses -- basic, short-sleeve shells -- will be found in faille, crepe de Chine and silk, in bright and pastel solids or floral prints. Lace trim detailing will soften up the basic shape. Blouses "will generally be paired with 19- to 25-inch slim skirts for more tailored looks, or 32-inch full skirts for a more feminine look," she says. Career and city shorts will be an option as well, often cut full, and paired with long boxy jackets. Some large-sized options at Annapolis Woman boutiques are bright linen suitings; short jewel-neck jackets with slim skirts, and two-piece dressing in bright challis prints.
"In my opinion, shorts are going to be just as strong, or stronger, than last year," says owner-buyer Margie Cantor. "They're replacing skirts for some occasions." Jackets are still of central importance, she feels, and slim pants will continue to be a bifurcated garment of choice. "This spring we are doing a lot of walking shorts and jackets, knee-length skirts paired with longer jackets, and anoraks paired with leggings, stirrups or bike shorts." Some favorite lines include Andrea Jovine ("lots of jackets with pearls, mesh tops over stirrups and capris"); dots and stripes from Hi-Tech, and bright appliqued and jeweled designs from IBE. Another favorite is Kikit, "very retro, with lots of accordion-pleated short skirts, great blazers, colorful sweaters, fun silk shorts, and patchwork tops in apple green, raspberry and tangerine."
BODY AND SOLE "For summer we get real sporty, active, fun," manager Barbara Janoff says.
In the fun category, sequined or stone-studded denim jackets with matching bustiers might fill the bill, while "legging sets" -- oversized T-shirts with coordinated leggings -- might appeal to those more actively inclined. As for sporty, lots of blazers and walking shorts will be offered, with 90 Degrees being a particular favorite shorts-and-jacket line for Ms. Janoff.
Bright colors will continue to be strong, often complementinblack and white, and all white will be prevalent too. Off-the-shoulder looks will be offered in cotton sweaters from Zero to Sixty, and in fitted, short dresses from Yes, a line that's "fun, young and real."
Caron's is undergoing big changes, according to designer-buyer Carlous Palmer. "We're phasing out some of the clothes, and making the look of the store a bit more sparse." Mr. Palmer will keep his own designs simple and uncomplicated, "without zippers and buttons -- just throw them on and go," fashioned largely from Italian fabrics in muted colors. He wants to ensure that Caron's continues to accommodate the wide range of sizes that it presently does, and so "even though tight and short is in," he will focus on designing more versatile figure-forgiving styles, like big tops over leggings.
For spring, the Cross Keys boutique will offer lots of bright colors fuchsia, turquoise, orange, red -- in cotton, cotton interlock, linen and silk both washable and raw. The '60s influence will be felt in chemise and trapeze dresses as well as Pucci-type prints; and business looks will focus on "L.A. Law" kinds of suiting: sophisticated classics like oversized houndstooth jackets with gold buttons.
As for evening wear, Shantung silk jackets with soutache or pearl trim across shoulders, or around the neck or cuff, will be showing -- a versatile evening choice that can be worn over a straight skirt or as a dress jacket.
ELIZABETH CHRISTMAS Owner Elizabeth Christmas describes her boutique as traditional." And what does she mean by traditional? "Oh, the classic look of tweed suits, the fitted silhouette . . . bright colors to traditional oxford gray." She adds, "But we do vary in skirt lengths, with some above the knee. For the most part, though, our skirts are below the knee." Some lines that stand out for her include Geiger of Austria Ilewacs, Count Romi, Umi by Ann Crimmins, and Richilene.
Washable silks in bright colors -- lime green, orange, hot pink, teal -- will be prevalent at Collections this spring, owner Bob Hammann says. "Washable silk is a good thing for traveling -- it doesn't take up much room, and you can use a few pieces, mix them and get different looks." Colorwise, there will be two predominant palettes in the store: "real bright" colors and pastels such as pink, mint, peach and light yellow. "I think pale, biscuit yellow is lending itself to a neutral," he says, and ivory and bone will be prevalent also, two colors he considers "a good basis for a wardrobe."
ERIKA'S FASHIONS "We always carry the basics: linens and spectator looks in black, navy, red and white," co-owner Sandra Bunch says. But hanging alongside the old reliables will be "beautiful prints in cottons and washed silks: some very bold, like jungle prints, and some in very soft florals, like watercolors." Tropical prints, too, will be a prevalent theme.
Jazzing up the classic choices will be new-for-the-store rompers with shorts and split skirts featuring just such motifs. "They're adorable. A lot of these rompers are coming in in darling prints -- in tropical, and in bold and soft pastels," she says.
Owner Beverly Matthai believes that earthy browns, golds and olives are making way for a cooler, more watery palette, such as blues, greens, silver and pewter.
"The water emphasis goes back to the customer," she explains. "For almost two years, there's been an influx of earth tones. Not many can wear them. Blues and greens are in a lot of ways more forgiving, not quite so hard to pull off."
Fish motifs, too, are strong. Other important trends for spring include a strong emphasis on dresses, and a '60s influence felt not only in clothes and accessories, but in heavier, chunkier jewelry fashioned from the Lucite and Bakelite reminiscent of that era.
There will be a "tremendous emphasis on the dress" for spring, according to Nancy Chistolini, vice president for creative merchandising. This includes sheath dresses, "very smooth, close to the body and short"; wedge dresses, and chemise dresses. She finds that, generally, the choices in dresses and sportswear are "very simple, very easy. It's not very complicated for spring. The color carries the whole silhouette or, if black and white, than it's just very graphic, crisp, black and white."
Any colors from the sea, the horizon, the sky, the water, "are wonderful," she says. Incidentally, "a strong accent is coral, which was so popular with the Pucci-inspired patterns." These soothing tones will often be found in color-blocked geometrics, she says.
Display manager Coleman Hooper is yet another to declare the dominance of the dress this season. But though she agrees that '60s influences are strong in this respect, she also sounds the signal for feminine, flowing, '40s-influenced dresses.
One line she's particularly pleased the store is carrying is Nancy Johnson, perhaps the quintessential flowing, '40s dress designer. Her floral rayon prints offer a "soft, feminine look"; an alternative to some of the more constructed shapes so prevalent this season.
Other looks for the store include novelty cotton knit dressing in pieces by ib diffusion -- "anything from sophisticated animal prints to bright, fun, florals." And color in general -- fuchsia, purple, royal, orange -- she finds to be important this spring.
JOHN SIMS From what buyer Elaine Suls saw in New York for spring, the
future should be "very, very bright," with citrusy tones of orange, yellow and lime popping up in the palette as well as lots of color-blocked Mondrian prints.
Clear, vibrant colors will be lifting spirits on drizzly days as well, as they will be jazzing up lots of rain gear, with short trench and seven-eighths lengths the predominant shapes available. One line, Panache, she finds "absolutely stunning . . . very floaty, very happy. It makes you want to buy a new raincoat."
Because times could continue to be tight, Ms. Suls is concentrating much of her energy on buying unusual-yet-useful things a customer might not have in her wardrobe. One of her favorites are the new silver mesh belts, a complement to the gold mesh styles so prevalent last season.
JONES AND JONES "I'd say we've got two distinct, different looks," says owner-buyer Sally Jones. The "smooth, clean look of Lycra" displayed in Bettina Reidel, Phyllis Sues, a.b.s. of california, and Ta--i, and career styles, with Norman Todd, Tina Hagen, Emil Rutenberg and Magaschoni.
She's particularly pleased to be carrying the latter, which is new for the store. The selections are "clean, contemporary" suitings and separates -- "not conservative" -- featuring longer jackets paired with shorter skirts; "interesting" colors like bark brown; and rich details such as domed gold buttons.
A general trend she's noticing is a return to handwork and patchwork -- such as in designs by Christian Francis Roth and Canvas Backs, a "not too far out" line she's been carrying for two years now, appropriate for work or a more dressed-up look. Patchwork is also to be found as an accent on simple tweeds, perhaps with a shoulder patched with plaid, velvet or paisley.
"One of the most important things you're going to want to buy is dress," says Bruce Binder, divisional vice president and fashion director for Macy's Northeast. For weekends, expect to find "short-alls" -- shorts overalls -- to be prominent. Printed leggings worn with tunic tops will continue to be strong for casual wear.
As for the color future, it's very, very, bright -- "the pink family looks great" -- very, very white -- "it's important" -- and even very, very light, with lots of florals offering a pale, romantic color palette.
Evening wear will continue to be bare, with halters and strapless designs, and sparkly, as sequins consolidate their hold as an embellishment for all seasons.
MILLER BROTHERS Yet another Baltimore area retailer stresses dresses for spring, and of these, "coat dresses and tapered wedges are the forerunners for shapes," according to dresses buyer Lori Streaker. They will often be found in citrusy shades like kiwi, mandarin orange and sun-kissed yellow.
Ms. Streaker says sportswear buyer Hilda Levin has chosen to focus on soft fabrications for spring, and will offer several styles of walking shorts as an alternative to short skirts. And the store has included clothing that adds yet another turn to the nautical twists now afloat: seashell buttons and starfish designs.
Wide and varied '60s influences can be felt in most of the clothing available, whether it's in styling, embellishments or even construction. Mondrian color blocks and mixed media prints are some of the '60s standouts.
NAN DUSKIN "I think the newness in spring is the return of the dress: the influenced, Babe Paley Jackie O dress," says Tom Marotta. "It's a soft feeling, although it can be hard in a way, reminiscent of Courreges and other designers of the '60s."
There will be lots of bright color, he feels, although pastels will also be making their presence felt at Nan Duskin, as in Bill Blass' collection featuring soft tones of pink, green and white. Pale mints, pinks, peaches and blues may almost come to be considered neutrals, he feels. "The accents will be white, and there will be a focus on all white dressing."
Skirt lengths are still short, narrow pants are still prevalent and city shorts will continue to offer an alternative to short skirts. As for jewelry, longer drop earrings and pearls will remain strong.
Silhouettes at Octavia this season can largely be divided into two groups, according to buyer Diane Lee. There are the "relaxed, elegant" shapes, including the chemise, wedge and tunic, often with dropped shoulders; and the flared, easy-moving, A-line shapes, in skirts, trapeze dresses and even trapeze-type tops over slim skirts.
Colorwise, lots of black-and-white will be punched up with brights, and blues will be prominent, sometimes found in a variety of shades in abstract color-blocked prints.
Buttons -- be they gold, wooden or enamel -- are everywhere, and clear sequins will liven up the silk prints carried at the store.
Though we'll always have wool for winter, "clothing is not seasonal anymore, it's more for three seasons," buyer Toni Rosenblatt says. "That's also why there's so much jacketed dressing." She believes the mobility of American culture has a lot to do with this new movement toward greater fabric and style versatility, as well as American women's demand for comfort and practicality. Hence you'll find lots of easily mixed and matched clothes with washability at her store, like washable silks and linens, as well as one of her old favorites, Ultrasuede. New nautical twists are another change she mentions, with seashells added to the usual crest and anchor detailing, and a wider range of blues.
"Pucci came and went, but the colors made a big stand," says owner Mary Carroll Alderman Formwalt. Hence you'll see lots of the orange, lime, fuchsia and purple found in the funky abstracts standing on their own as solids. Adorning many of these solids will be a wide variety of embellishments, including appliques, sequins and lots and lots of beading. David Abraham, a line from India, is particularly hot on beads, she says.
Shorts will play a very big role for spring, "whether dressy or casual. Even black tie -- lots of outfits with silk shorts or lame can take you into evening. It's a fun look." Other bottoms to complement the beaded jackets and sequined T-shirts will be stirrup pants, and the short skirt, which she buys at 25 inches.
There will be "shorts and lots of shorts" for spring at Reamer's, according to women's wear buyer Herb Reamer. Short suit sets, too, will be prevalent, ranging anywhere from casual cotton T-shirt sets to dressier silk looks, with rayon printed suits offering an in-between option. Two-piece and trapeze dresses and soft, feminine suiting will also be emphasized, in cottons, washed silks, linens and linen blends.
Florals, fishes and stars will be the themes of choice for prints. Generally, the focus for separates will be items specifically chosen to go together, such as print cotton pants with a solid matching T-shirt top that picks up the pants' print as a border, sleeve treatment or center piece.
RED GARTER One of the trends owner Charlotte Fischer was happiest to see this season was the predominance of the seven-eighths coat. She sees such coats "working over little slip dresses, cotton short skirts and Lycra T-tops" for work or play.
Colors will once again be very bright, she feels, with the focus on transitional fabrics such as gabardine for greatest versatility. Pucci prints, too, will be popping up at the store. Other looks she thinks are important include walking shorts with longer coats, and big shirts over leggings or sun dresses.
"A combination of '60s chic and '90s hip" will start the season rolling at Rococo, according to co-owner Linda Scherr. "Clean little dresses, crisp suitings, that whole '60s, Jackie O kind of look" will be found there this season, as will such counterculture carry-overs as psychedelic prints and flower-power themes. In respect to this last, she's excited about a new line from Los Angeles by designer Rachel London that includes Lycra and denim trimmed with silk flowers.
She feels strongly about the jeans, white T-shirt and blazer look. "It's simple, chic, you can wear your good jewelry with it, and it can be put together at any price point." Another of the very latest, L.A.-est of looks this season is the long swing jacket over
RUTH SHAW "I think we're getting away from the stretch stuff and into clothes that have more movement to them -- more cut and sewn, instead of a tube of something that stretches over the body. Even the people who have good bodies are beginning to prefer clothes like that," says owner Ruth Shaw. Two fabrics of importance in this movement toward a more fluid silhouette are wool crepe and rayon.
She's not crazy about shorts for anything but casual wear, and says that although a lot of designers are pushing the look, she's not biting. "It's too contrived." She's not jumping on the '60s bandwagon, either. "We're just going to have to suffer through. I lived through it and it was ugly then. We're more sensible today."
SAKS FIFTH AVENUE The accent for spring is Dresses for Success, according to fashion director Nancy Sachs. "Dresses have regained their status as the clothing of choice for women in spring. They're simple, chic and very ladylike," she says.
One of her favorite new collections for spring features an updated nautical theme, at least in its color spectrum: the "fabulous" Ralph Lauren Collection. "Only eight stores in the chain have been given the privilege of carrying the collection. It's very Baltimore," she promises, with a "dressed-up casualness" she hopes will be well-received in this area.
SALLY WOLF When you go out into the market as a buyer, owner Sally Wolf points out, you don't necessarily concern yourself with trends. "You pick out pretty things, because nothing ever changes. It just recycles." It's a good thing to keep in mind as she ticks off the items currently so much in vogue -- the '60s dress "a la Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O," Pucci prints, classic Chanel.
It's also a good thing to keep in mind as she describes one of the "pretty things" she's chosen to stock in her boutique: intaglio jewelry. "The stone resembles a carnelian watch fob," she explains, "with all different kinds of designs engraved inside, like a Roman soldier, and it's surrounded by gold." It's a look she predicts will be very big.
STORE LTD. What Store Ltd. customers seek is timeless, good design. But buyer Fran Hess still likes to keep up with the trends, and offers an example of how the minimalist sensibility might be applied to a current trend -- big tops over skinny bottoms. Her customers wouldn't search out the store for a sequiny, embellished top, but rather one with a singular shape. A versatile-but-unusual design from Joan Vass, or even ribbed sweater and legging sets from Cotton Fields, might fill such a bill.
Old standbys Hino and Malee have introduced an out-of-the-ordinary, pebbled surface knit this season, and have moved away from the stone and pastel neutrals of last spring into bright violet, geranium, moss and, of course, black and white. "Happy" raincoats from the married designing duo have arrived in black, yellow and Kelly green.
Coral and apple green are the predominant colors at Trillium, according to owner-buyer Jan Maslin. "Coral was No. 1 in everyone's line. It's a very easy color for most people to wear."
Like just about everyone, she mentions '60s influences ranging from wedge and trapeze dresses to "Jackie O anything," but a little special '60s something she'll be carrying this season are printed cottons with clear paillettes.
Personal favorites include fun, silk-screened scarf and tie printed shirts from Barbara Blue; Criscione jackets and a relatively new dress line for the store, Belena, which features "beautiful tweedy Chanel-type jackets."
WOODWARD & LOTHROP The new clean silhouettes and color-blocked designs make dresses a happening item at the store, but fashion director Ginny Rupp says Woodies also "believes very much in the longer jacket," which will be softer than fall's versions, and often paired with shorter skirts.
For February and March, colors will center around "pale cosmetic tones -- almost tints of color," while later on into the season the palette becomes "explosively bright." The bright colors are not necessarily of the '60s, but are influenced by them. All white will ,, be strong throughout the season, and soothing, sky-sea shades of blue and green will also be surfacing in the selections.