By  on January 19, 1994

CHICAGO -- Snow, ice and cold combined to put a chill on traffic at the women's and children's summer market at the Chicago Apparel Center this past weekend, but those who braved the sub-zero temperatures warmed up sufficiently to write some healthy orders, sales firms said.

Soft dressing continued to be the dominant trend for summer, with ethnic and natural looks the strong themes for accessories. Buyers said they welcomed a return of colors to many collections after several seasons that focused on neutrals.

Most retailers reported budgets even with last year and seemed to be in an upbeat mood. While some said they were buying closer to season, others were using the market to check out early fall merchandise.

For the first time, the market opened a day earlier, on Friday. The move got a good response, said Susan McCullough, vice president of marketing, for the apparel center.

"We had a good front end of market, but due to the weather I expect we will be down slightly overall when the numbers come in," she said.

The closure of some major roads in Michigan and Indiana caused travel problems later in the weekend, she noted. The five-day market closed Tuesday.

The poor weather caused problems across the board, with showrooms suffering canceled appointments and buyers worrying about how they would get home.

"It was a freeze market," said Marshall Stewart, a multiline rep. "We had several cancellations from people who couldn't make it in, but a better percentage of orders were written by those who did come."

He said casual, easy looks continued to be popular and noted a strong demand for color.

"Any time they could pick up some color, they did," said Steven Jacobson, another multiline rep, noting that soft palettes featuring colors such as apricot and pistachio were particularly popular.

"People asked for color," said Beverly Simon, a partner in the Karin Berger showroom, "but they did buy neutrals."

She said the demand for color was strongest in early fall merchandise.

Those buyers that did make it to the market came looking for at-once items, as well as to buy and preview summer and early fall.

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