By  on November 10, 2005

DALLAS — White dresses, knee-length shorts and short-shorts were the newest silhouettes to capture buyers’ attention during the spring market at FashionCenterDallas.

Retailers also liked the unusual color array more typically associated with fall, such as chocolate, deep orange and olive. And the South’s passion for embellishment raged on, as stores continued to invest in fashions sparked with touches of beading, crystals and embroidery, though the glitz was a tad more understated than at past shows.

“We don’t want it to get too minimal,” said Paul Sutton, a principal in the Lori Veith Sales showroom. “Minimal style equals minimal sales.”

The Dallas Market Center, which operates the show, said attendance was up from last year at the market that ended Oct. 30. The market center didn’t provide specific figures.

“Overall, there was an increase in the number of stores attending from both the immediate area, as well as stores from the wider region between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River,” said Cindy Morris, chief operating officer. “Many showrooms reported that stores left significant orders at market.”

Retailers said fall business had been brisk and was running ahead despite bumps from the hurricanes that savaged the Gulf Coast and Florida. Some increased their budgets 5 to 20 percent. But the unpredictable pace of sales coupled with political turmoil and high fuel prices led others to keep their budgets flat.

“It’s been a good fall, up 15 percent,” said Monica Smits, who owns Aspen Traders in Wichita, Kan., with her husband, James. “But we’re planning spring the same because in this climate, I feel like it’s up and down.”

As she reviewed Nicole Miller’s cocktail dresses, Freda Greenbaum, an owner of A Nose for Clothes in Miami, said she wasn’t certain how to plan her spring budget. Her company was having a stellar year until Hurricane Wilma hit, affecting all six of her Florida stores, she said. The company also has two units in Atlanta.

“Our experience is that women will want to shop more than ever to feel good, and they’ll need Nicole Miller’s dresses and everyone else’s,” Greenbaum said.She praised Miller’s spring collection, especially the metallic mesh cocktail dress in brown, bronze or steel and the coral-and-brown baby doll with gold brocade ribbon at the Empire waistline. She also lauded Elliott Lauren and B. Marks for providing fashionable sportswear for “a ladylike customer who wants to look hip.”

Mary Stone, owner of Joni’s in Plano, Tex., sought styles with a contemporary feeling. Stone favored Glamour Toujours’ khaki gaucho pants with a black camisole trimmed with wooden beads, and M.K. Solo’s georgette blouses, such as a blue-and-chocolate leopard-print ruffled style.

Her business, almost four years old, is growing, and her budget was up 5 to 10 percent.

“Business has been great, but September was a little slow because of the heat and the hurricanes,” Stone said.

Kim Giallanza, bridge buyer for the Tootsies chain based in Houston, was scouting for soft blouses.

“I’m buying a lot of items,” she said, eyeing a black knit top with a fabric rosette over a tiny floral-print white full skirt by David Meister. “My business has been growing, up 20 percent over the previous year, but this season was tough because of Katrina. My budget is flat for spring.”

Olivia, a 19-year-old store in the shopping destination of St. Armands Circle on an island off Sarasota, Fla., survived Hurricane Wilma unscathed. Owner Annika Sandstrom is convinced tourists will return to Florida this winter and in spring, though perhaps not during hurricane season.

“I think spring will be good,” she said. “It’s an interesting season with a lot of diversity, a lot of pretty dresses and feminine looks with soft fabrics. I think the bohemian look is not over because it’s very comfortable. We’ll still sell some gypsy skirts and embellished tunics.”

She ordered embroidered knit tops and soft printed tiered skirts from Johnny Was, as well as novelty tunic tops by Nara Camice.

Connie Sigel, owner of Elements in Dallas, was avoiding embellishment unless the quality was exceptional, she said.

“People are still buying embroidery, and it is colorful and beautiful, so if you get really high-end pieces like from Biya and Two Ten Ten Five, then it has the power to stay in your wardrobe,” she said.Sigel was upbeat about a new resource, Jak & Rae, that had a tailored cropped jacket with lace trim at the elbow. She also picked up Seven For All Mankind’s new jeans style with an embroidered logo on a white patch.

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