NEW YORK -- Dresses and novelty items such as vests and sleeveless jackets for spring and summer took center stage at the International Fashion Boutique Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here.

While snow and ice storms dented traffic at the start of the show on Saturday, many vendors said they were still able to report an increase in orders and new accounts. Some, though, said the action was down. The show ended Tuesday.

The mood among retailers was mixed. Some said they were simply scouting the booths and remaining cautious with their buys, while others left paper and shopped with an increase in their budgets.

David Larkin, vice president for corporate development at the Larkin Group, the show's producer, described Saturday as "tough," but added, "We made it up over the next few days."

While there was continuing demand for long lengths, several retailers generally agreed that short lengths were giving dresses and skirts a boost. They also liked soft and drapey layered looks in textured fabrics such as linen and cotton. Also popular were sheers, muted colors and ethnic prints.

"Summer is my favorite season," said Pat Loranson a buyer from Dalliance, a boutique in New Bedford, Mass. "I always see things I like."

Loranson said she was looking for sleeveless jackets, vests and jumpers.

"They usually show a neutral palette here, which I like," she said. "I'm also buying gauze and linen more than anything else. Price points are an issue with me. I've had the same budget for the past three years. I feel the business mood will be slow for the next five or six weeks and then volume picks up towards spring."

On the other hand, Dianne Fair, a buyer for the Providence, R.I.-based Gabrielle, said that at the Boutique Show, "it doesn't really matter what price point it is."

Fair said that she came off an "excellent Christmas" and her open-to-buy was up 10 percent from last year.

"I think people felt good about buying," she said. "People had extra disposable income. With taxes coming in April, they might be tentative. But I think it will be a good summer."

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