By  on January 10, 2002

FEMININE PRINTS AND SEXY SILHOUETTES ARE AT THE TOP OF RETAILERS' SHOPPING LISTS.

Buyers are on the hunt for lively color combinations, particularly the patriotic blend of red, white and blue. Preppy, nautical and feminine themes are also the most sought-after looks by retailers for next season.

The retailers WWD spoke with predict that minis will be strong, as well as cropped pants with printed patterns. Feminine-looking dresses, often strapless and with playful patterns, are also expected to perform well.

Denim die-hards will be pleased to learn that jeans -- particularly faded and distressed looks, with a low rise -- are also at the top of buyers' shopping lists.

On the accessories front, retailers are looking for scarves, long earrings, cross necklaces, costume jewelry and belts.

Freda Greenbaum, co-owner

A Nose for Clothes, nine locations in Florida and Georgia

"I'm seeing a lot of French nautical or Riviera influence, which can be applied to Americana themes. The red, white and blue palette, khaki and red or navy and red really started with the sophisticated, French patriotism movement. It involves striping and colors that relate to denim, another important category. I'll look for novelty denim again.

"I love the lace trend, too. For holiday, it came in black; for resort, it's white. Moving forward, I see ivory and neutral laces. The most essential piece is about a feminine design, rather than just a layering piece.

"We used to sell more pants, but now I'm seeing a tremendous amount of interest in the short skirt business. If we write a print in a cropped pant this market, we'll also offer it in a skirt. I'm going to do some midcalf or ankle lengths, too, in urban prairie styles. They look new and exciting, especially with a cognac, tobacco or caramel-colored, hip-slung belt. "We always have difficulty finding dresses, but I've found some great vendors recently. Dresses are feminine with lace, flowy styles, gauze and ruffles. It's no longer about structured, body-fitted, cami dresses. The new look is less tight, soft and sexy. It's not as hard to wear, either.

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