The word for spring is ease and pieces


NEW YORK Every season has its trends, some of which barely survive until the season is over. Remember the pouf?

Others take a while to catch on but eventually exhibit staying power. Think of short skirts. Still others, like leggings, find almost instant acceptance and quickly make the transition from trend to fashion staple.

This season's lineup of contenders includes city shorts, which seem to reappear every spring, and dresses, which keep changing shape in an effort to win over the American woman from her beloved sportswear.

Now designers are pairing a dress with a jacket or coat so that it becomes an outfit rather than a lonely item.

"The dress with a jacket is the new spring suit," said Andrew Basile, fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman.

The dress might be a straight shift or sheath, but a slightly flared A-line is this season's update. The newest skirts also follow the A-line, which looks snappy if it ends several inches above the knee but can look dowdy if it's too long.

The jacket part of the dress-and-jacket suit might be waist-length or nearly as long as the dress, but the short jacket looks freshest this spring, calling to mind the neat, ladylike look of a young Jackie Kennedy.

"Sixties modern is one of the major themes for spring," said Jane Harkness, a divisional merchandise manager of Barneys New York's national stores. "But our aim is to take the '60s into the modern era."

Many of the new versions are witty takeoffs on the past, incorporating stretch fabrics or decorative buttons that are oversized jewels or plastic flowers.

Franco Moschino's Cheap and Chic line has several short jackets with extravagant details including a white wool cardigan with pink rickrack borders and yellow plastic flowers for buttons. Lest anyone take it too seriously, the jacket is shown over a pink and white striped cotton T-shirt. That makes it 1991.

"Novelty buttons, zippers, studs, embroidery; anything with a strong visual appeal is important now," said Susan Hughes, a vice president and fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue.

"We've already seen a tremendous response to bold bright colors and graphic combinations of black and white. I'm sure that all-white will be very important this spring."

Shiny vinyl and patent leather are other 60's favorites counted FTC among this season's trends by Basile of Bergdorf's, who also suggests that an alternative to the dress-and-jacket suit is the shorts-and-jacket suit.

He particularly likes Calvin Klein's softly tailored wool crepe blazer and shorts which look elegant enough to go from the office to dinner.

It isn't always easy for the buyers or fashion directors of stores to predict which trends will catch on, but most of them agree that simple dresses, short jackets, bright colors and graphic black and white could all be winners this season.

Then there's the long shot that Harkness of Barneys is taking a flyer on: bell-bottom jeans. Stay tuned.

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