Forget designers, here's what the buyers are buying STRAIGHT TALK


Who buys into the trend of the moment? Designers, stylists, photographers and groupies get all wrapped up in the freakish fringe of fashion when the collections hit the runways. Trends emerge from this seasonal exaggeration, but a lot of what we see in previews never makes it to the stores. So let's see what area retailers, the people bringing new lines to a store near you, have to say about the trends of spring.

Here is a sampling of opinions. We asked them what they hated, what they loved, and what they bought.

Sima Blum, owner of Trillium Ltd.

I hate those baby-doll dresses that hit the top of the thigh. That's really stretching fashion, especially for women of a certain age.

I do love the soft dressing and soft colors. The pale palette of sea foam, apricot and banana is very appealing. Even though there are so many neutrals on the market, you never get tired of them. My favorite look for spring would be white handkerchief linen pants with an easy top. You can just see yourself sitting in a cafe in Cairo drinking a mint julep.

Another one of my favorite looks is a navy gabardine blazer worn with white pants or skirt. It's a fresh and wonderful look with a T-shirt, a striped classic shirt and white tennis shoes.

Ruth Shaw, owner of Ruth Shaw

Those awful nightgown dresses, I hated them and they were hideous. They were all disgusting and there was not a decent dress to buy.

I loved Richard Tyler. It was the one collection that really had good fabrics, interesting fabrics. And in that collection my favorite was the gray group with an outstanding frock coat.

I bought a lot of pants and mostly short skirts. It was a difficult season and I bought what I could. Armani was OK, and Ralph Lauren.

As for styling, I have liked a lot of the clunky shoes, but I don't understand them with evening clothes. Dancing in a filmy chiffon gown and clodhoppers just doesn't make any sense. And this shift from nothing but flats before to nothing but heels now is ridiculous. Women need a variety to be comfortable.

Charlotte Waldorf, buyer for Olive G Fashion Studio

I dislike all this emphasis I'm seeing on colorless neutrals. That isn't going to sell to customers who want a spring lift of color.

The many new pastels are a good alternative and look great and fresh in cotton naturals. I also like the many jacket options and the jacket/dress combinations in particular. And the practicality of knits speaks for itself.

Carolyn Moss, fashion director of ready-to-wear for Macy's

I hate costumery -- clothes designed for a very small segment of the population -- and I blame the press for giving the outrageous so much play. Women who are not in the fashion business may feel there is only one choice.

I also hate the similarity in everybody's clothes. Everyone [showed] a slip dress and a tank dress this season. That's not fashion, there's no creativity. Then everybody thinks they have to have it. It's hard enough to make a decision as a buyer, and even more difficult when you can't tell one slip dress from another.

The best this spring is the diversity of materials and the easy drape of soft new styles. Fabrics are becoming 12-months-of-the-year wearable and they have a fluidity we haven't seen. And I love the idea of pants again -- easy, relaxed cuts with a softer jacket. I also love anything Armani or Armani-inspired.

Michael Miller, owner-buyer for Miller Brothers

Things that are too young don't work for us. This is still the Baltimore that believes in classics and for spring that means a lot of naturals and nauticals.

We do try to stay on top and have the short, flippy pleated skirt that is being shown everywhere for our customer who wants a younger look.

Now that we have returned to Charles Street, we will try to be what we were a long time ago -- a specialty store -- so we plan to be stronger in special occasion and evening wear.

Toni Rosenblatt, buyer for O'Ney's Ltd.

I hate those long hippie crochet vests or anything that reminds me of flower children. Even worse are the thigh-high stocking tights which they're showing with short skirts.

I love the softer, longer tunics and dusters this spring -- they have a casual ease yet are elegant at the same time. My favorites are still hand-painted silks in dresses with soft matching jackets. Anne Crimmins silks are still one of the nicest dress lines made. They change each season but they hold up.

Nancy Chistolini, vice president of fashion merchandising for Hecht's

The slip is an idea I don't understand -- not for a woman of style. However, it does make sense for the junior market.

What I like about spring are the new fabrics in wrinkles, creases and pleats. Among my personal favorites are a long gauze white duster over pants, a long tunic vest and the new bamboo shades.

Jane Simpson, accessories buyer for Octavia

What doesn't work for me this season are some of the saddle leathers, which look too heavy for spring and summer. Which season are we in?

What appeals now are some exquisite scarves. They are the one accessory that can brighten and pick up the many neutrals and dulled shades. Some of the long oblongs in airy gauzes and textures float gracefully. With transparency and sheerness such a strong fashion element now, a scarf can be the transparent touch in the wardrobe without having to show too much skin.

Lois Katz, sportswear buyer for Body & Sole

I hate glitz, and I'm glad clothes are getting cleaner this season. ,, I'm also glad bell-bottoms never really took off.

It's nice to see some bright color, such as red, which hadn't been around in a long time.

One of my favorites this spring is a black and white body suit by Opal which would work beautifully with red separates. And the long, flowing skirts which are coming in are very wearable and flattering.

Patti Cumming, regional public relations director for Bloomingdale's

My first instinct was to hate the baby-doll look, but I love it. Not for everyone, but certainly for very young people.

When you look at things on the runway, there's sometimes a negative reaction, but you have to give clothes a chance and look at them piece by piece.

What I dislike the most are the totally transparent designs. They look quite lovely shown in layers on the runway. In reality, lots of layers, unless they're shaped right, look baggy and unflattering. You can have pieces nipped and tucked if you have a sense of style, but you have to be sure it's exactly the right look.

Some of my personal favorites are by Anne Klein II and Tahari -- flowing pants with a slender jacket that have a sense of figure and shape.

5) For weekends, I love items from DKNY.

Beverly Matthai, owner of Femme

I despise anything that hints of body piercing and the so-called nouveau punk looks.

I like the way things have loosened up -- easy layers, pajama pants. Among my favorites are wide water-stripe pants, vest and georgette print tunic by Susie Tompkins.

Heather Femia, regional fashion director for Nordstrom

hTC I hated the unwearable short lengths on the runways. However, a lot happens between runway and store. In most of the lines the buyers are offered several choices on length and they buy for their market.

I loved a lot of things -- the additions to the career suit, which is something we haven't done for a long time. We now have a vest minus a blouse, and tunics which can go tucked or untucked under a jacket to update a suit.

To really freshen up for spring, women might want to look to a softer handbag unlike the stiff Kelly bag of recent years.

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