Spring fashions blossom with a profusion of feminine styles, floral prints and new bohemian styles. Here, a look at the season’s top trends.


Sheers bring a feminine touch to spring.

Forwear, a New York-based better sportswear firm, uses sheers throughout its collection, including a vintage-looking shirting group of cotton voiles embellished with everything from heirloom lace, charmeuse string ties and mother-of-pearl buttons to crystal beads sewn on flat as floral patterns. Likewise, New York designer Lela Rose repeatedly uses decorated metallic tulle overlays, iridescent silk chiffon and a herringboned cotton-devore in dresses and cocktail tops. "There’s a lot of opulence; it’s very Twenties and subtly over-the-top," Rose said. Nony Tochterman, designer for Los Angeles-based contemporary firm Petro Zillia, said, "My inspiration for spring came from a collection of antique miniature porcelain dolls. Everything I do still has a feminine touch, more than ever before; the look is soft and romantic yet a bit whimsical at times."

Skirts Dance Ahead Of Pants

Generally flowy or flouncy, a feminine skirt is the key spring silhouette. On the runway, Betsey Johnson presented a bold, floral-printed skirt volumized with a tulle petticoat—but matched with an off-the-shoulder, midriff-baring blouse—making the look anything but demure. Likewise, Diane Von Furstenberg debuted a spin on the poodle skirt: floaty, sheer, pale pink with an exposed petticoat, but instead of a pooch, an abstract pattern in black was tattooed diagonally across the skirt. Designer Nanette Lepore shows a ruched-bustled mini in cotton voile and other skirts in a crinkly, printed chiffon and a moiré-printed silk. Barbara Benenson Warren, co-founder of White + Warren sportswear in New York, agreed: "We’re doing more bottoms, especially more skirts for spring," she said. "We’re finding customers want a head-to-toe look. It makes shopping easier."

Tailored Suitings Go Soft

After several seasons without a major suit wave, they’re slowly returning for both special occasions and office wear, but rethought with softer lines and palettes and anything-but-androgynous embellishments. Forwear features a sculptured stretch-poplin jacket with an open French-cuff sleeve and empire waist, while fitted Fifties tailoring and cotton printed jacquards take the edge off Mica’s jackets. "When things get hard, people dress up," said Claire Dupuis, manager of fashion marketing for Cotton Incorporated. "People are worried about their jobs, and dressing up is a way to put their best face forward." According to Roseanne Cumella, senior vice president of merchandising at The Doneger Group buying office in New York, "The tailored suit business is a tiny bit better than last year, but it’s like a pinstripe suit jacket with a soft lapel or embellishment or with a bias ruffled skirt." At Diane Von Furstenberg, a suit sashayed out as a white, one-button jacket with a pleated, puff shoulder and rounded hem worn with a white pencil skirt.

Blouses Still Make A Statement

"Blouses are definitely the most important thing that a woman could have," said Joseph Yeganeh, owner and designer of Forwear. Nanette Lepore shows her girly tops with baggy pants: belted, pleated, baggy. "It’s Zsa Zsa Gabor down on the farm," joked Lepore. "Pants with really femme shirts are less sweet." Likewise, tops at Free People are key. "We’re looking at more feminine tops working back to military-type baggy pants with paper-waists and D-ring, belted closures," commented Kristine Meehan, director of sales at the New York-based contemporary sportswear company. Free People is producing a range of Twenties and Thirties-inspired blouses: airy voiles, gauzy cottons, and sheer printed knits with delicate trims and buttons. On the runway, Roland Mouret featured cut-up chiffon tanks, while Hamish Morrow sent out a lemon-yellow button-down blouse with bold ruffles running from shoulder to shoulder across the back. "The waist is coming back," predicted Finley Moll, the Dallas-based designer of an eponymous modern sportswear firm. And designers — Diane Von Furstenberg, Paul Smith, Roland Mouret, Heatherette, Russell Sage, to name but a few — agreed in droves, continuing with the waist-definers of this fall: obis and corsets. Finley’s spring shirtings accentuate the curves with obi wraps, corseted bodices, and, as Moll described, "naïve" embellishments, such as trapunto stitchings. Jill McGowan, the self-titled firm headquartered in Portland, Maine, is styling fitted, darted shirts with interesting cuff and collar treatments.

Leathers Go Girly

In the right shape and with certain embellishments, the cold-weather fabric can look absolutely sweet. Irka by ssg, a New York sportswear firm, features feminine leather pieces such as a miniskirt with a zip-slit, a long, tiered, full skirt with perforated suede eyelet trim, and a colored, distressed leather jacket. On the Paul Smith runway, models wore flirtatious black leather: one in a sheath dress with snap slits and a lace-up bodice, another in a pencil skirt with lace-up side and back seams.

Dresses Look Back To The New Look

Fitted, flared and Fifties are the buzzwords to the season’s dress silhouette. "There’s a return to dresses, being a lady again, looking clean — not like you just rolled out bed," Mica designer Kim Holbrook said. Betsey Johnson’s sweet Eisenhower-era petticoats and flowers got their edge from low-slung black leather belts and platform shoes, rendering her dresses an amalgam of decades. Elsewhere on the runway, Diane Von Furstenberg got domestic with a cap-sleeved, belted shirt-dress in a black-and-white floral print. Similarly, Paul Smith showed a shirt-dress in a coquettish rosebud and tablecloth print, complete with scalloped hem and sleeves. Designer Warren Noronha sent out three versions of one voluptuous dress: spaghetti straps, gathered empire waist, and a full, layered knee-length bottom.


Full cotton skirts and eyelet trimmings are everywhere

"Eyelet has been good in the junior and contemporary markets, so now it’s going to hit the mainstream," said Doneger Group’s Cumella. Irka by ssg shows reams of eyelet in its collection: a fusion of knits and eyelet in bright colors, including a peasant top, tunic, sleeveless shell and cardigan shirt, as well as a drop-yoke skirt of all eyelet. Mica also mixes it up, concocting a crinkled rayon-georgette prairie skirt with tiers of georgette, lace and rose print. Petro Zillia, a contemporary firm in Los Angeles, puts a different twist on the Americana cotton skirt, making a more Mexican dance skirt decorated with rickrack. "The strong cotton story — eyelet, voile, jacquard, damask, crinkle — in the contemporary market is now being missy-fied," said Cumella, "so it’s really new to that customer." Julien MacDonald inserted a few racier expressions on the runway, including a strapless, white minidress with a layered eyelet bottom.

New Fabrications And Washes Give Items A Natural Or Handiwork Finish

Canadian denim brand Silver Jeans unveils its "streak wash" series: dirty khaki streaks are whiskered on blue denim at the legs and edges of pockets. Speaking of denim, White + Warren’s T-shirts with enzyme-washed color are derived from the denim world. "Applying the same process to T-shirts for a washed-out, worn-out look was introduced for resort, and we got a great response," Warren said. Irka by ssg is using fabrics that are smocked, embroidered, or bordered at the production level. "The mills have really done their homework. The fabric, which has all those novelty touches, shows through," said manager and product developer John Yang.

The Look Gets Earthy In Linen And Neutrals

After several seasons of bold color, the entire brown and white families — tan, burlap, sand, ecru, flesh — return for spring, as do nubby, natural linens. White + Warren shows a linen and cotton asymmetrical-hem skirt with a neutral-striped T-shirt, while Parameter, a New York sportswear company, pieces cotton and silk with tan and khaki linen in a "mixed media" series. Silver Jeans is tinting its jeans in a variety of khaki, copper and olive shades. Free People applies shell details on crocheted and lightweight open-weave sweaters in a palette of apricot, brown and vanilla. While white is always number one for Finley, says Moll, the line is incorporating soft nudes, sands and khakis for spring.Florals crop up

Flowers bloom when the mercury rises, but even more so this season. Printed, pastel, Monet-inspired florals appear painted on stretch cotton at Alberto Makali, a contemporary/career sportswear company in New York. Likewise, Mica plants flowers of all kinds and sizes, ditsy to large florals, in its collection.


The Tunic Stars As This Year’s Peasant Blouse.

Worn over a skirt or pant or by itself as a caftan, this easy-to-wear shape appears in all imaginable fabrics. With high armholes and a body-skimming silhouette, the tunic from Parameter modernizes the traditionally oversized form. Petro Zillia, a contemporary sportswear firm in Los Angeles, works the widespread patchwork trend into its tunic, assembling different, textured fabrics as arm, front, and back pieces.

Patchwork Still Pops

An evolution from last spring, patchwork is maximized for spring, but this time around it’s more geometric and less hodge-podge. Mica does patchwork in tonal prints or contrasting fabrics including denim, gauze, lace, eyelet and cluny, while Silver Jeans adopts the trend with a variety of denims that are patched and then washed, tinted, or sandblasted as one piece. Two Star Dog, a contemporary misses sportswear company in Berkeley, Calif., uses its signature Tencel-hemp blend along with multi-fabric pieces of indigo and reversible silk georgette.

Ethnic Evolves With More Worldly, Subtle Approaches In Both Fabric And Decoration

Petro Zillia applies an American Indian-influenced print of goddess statues to one group and a striped Italian linen-cotton blend in a Moroccan/Bedouin-inspired group. Similarly, Castelbajac uses patterns of fruits and Rastafarian motifs, while East Indian touches — glass beads, jewel tones, gold rope trims, floral embroider and mirrors — embellish portions of Irka. On the runway, Behnaz Sarafour presented an entire series in tie-dye — pants with the pattern radiating from the cuff to the knee, a boat-neck blouse with bell sleeves, a strapless minidress — all in audacious shades of blue, turquoise, fuchsia and gold.

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