CHICAGO — Retailers overlooked the chilly temperatures and the Super Bowl to shop at the Chicago Apparel Center late last month, placing orders for spring and dabbling in fall merchandise that received mixed reviews.

Bob Dowling, co-owner of MeadowCreek Clothiers in Saginaw, Bay City and Mt. Pleasant Mich., said he traveled to the market to do more immediate and spring-summer shopping, picking up only a few items for fall.

"We’ll do most of our fall buying in March at StyleMax," he said. "Our ordering was more sun-driven: shorts, sleeveless dresses, bright colors and prints. It was more fun and more casual."

In particular, Dowling liked whimsical printed pants from In The Wash. "They had some great novelty items," he said, citing a pair of black pants covered with multicolored martini glasses.

For solid black pants, Dowling turned to Drama for mid-calf, capri and ankle-length microfiber styles. "We ordered in all three lengths," he said of the pants, which retail for around $106 to $110. "Some were lower-cut [in the waist], but not too low."

Dowling plans to pair Drama pants with brightly colored $80 to $97 Kay Celine tops in fuchsia, bright blue, golden mango, bright rose and light lavender.

"They’re great layering pieces to go with a jacket," he said. "The fit tends to be smaller, so we order less in the smaller sizes."

Additionally, Dowling ordered a collection of Rayure blouses in white, black or gray stripes, including some with leather trim around the collar and cuffs.

Customers often purchase the blouses to accompany suits or separates from Garfield & Marks, from which Dowling ordered pants, jackets and skirts in a black-and-white muted mini-check pattern, oyster, black and navy.

"We felt very strongly about their spring line, so good that we booked a trunk show for February," he added.

For fall, Dowling was impressed with suede zip-up jackets by Co & Eddy, ordering the style, which retails for $210, in cobalt blue, lavender, bright red and lime.

Susan McCullough, vice president for apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., noticed that because many retailers bought conservatively in October, they had money left over to buy more spring merchandise at the Jan. 24-28 show.Although the January market is not Chicago’s biggest, it did draw crossover traffic from the Chicago Gift & Home Market. Sunday evening’s fashion show featuring 600 West drew its typical capacity crowd, she noted.

Judy Walby, an owner of The Peppertree in Rochester, Mich., said, "My thoughts about the market are not real positive. I didn’t love what we saw. I wasn’t impressed with some of the color palettes. I like brown, but they were showing it with cranberry and periwinkle. The color combinations didn’t thrill me."

"They’re also showing a lot of printed bottoms for fall," she added. "That’s a harder sell for a store like ours and we kept seeing a lot of them."

Walby said she could understand those pants moving well in other markets, such as in the South, "but here in the Midwest I’m not sure how they’ll do."

On a positive note, Walby said, "We loved the outerwear," citing Canadian designer Linda Lundstrom’s wool coats with removable faux fur collars and cuffs in pale blue, yellow and brown, retailing for $500 to $700. "We do extremely well with her coats."

Walby also placed orders for Geiger sweaters and jackets in bone, black, mocha and red.

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