With increased open-to-buys and a booming economy, retailers say they are ready to spend like it’s the Eighties all over again. And the trends are there to back up their enthusiasm, with Eighties-like excess. Fashion is fun and flashy once again, with so many options — from a tailored suit to a wild, optic print to a flirty, feminine dress — that there’s something for everyone.
Even with the resurgence of brown and its warm complements this fall, spring promises vibrant, candy colors, including all shades of greens, blues and purples.
Absent for some time, white resurfaces in accessories. Gold continues too, in the form of buttons, chains, shoes, brooches, other chunky, costume jewelry and hoops of all diameters and widths. Wrist cuffs and lariats aren’t as new as bangles or wrapped styles, while the baguette is replaced by large totes in all colors and fabrics.
Newfound excitement seems to have gone hand in hand with a decline in embellishment. Last spring’s embellished clothes are now giving way to prints as the latest form of novelty.
Though prints have exploded within every category and direction, many retailers say they are hesitant about predicting how the consumer will respond to the profusion. Of all the season’s trends — including geometrics, optics, florals, especially big roses, computerized and tropical, retailers feel strongest about Pucci-inspired prints. In animal prints, snake is on its way out, whereas crocodile and particularly giraffe are fresher.
Retailers also say they are looking for the next silhouette to replace the tie-neck and apron halter, but they remain loyal to three-quarter sleeves, capris and cropped pants. They report that these popular styles have been so successful due to their ageless appeal — especially to women who feel uncomfortable wearing sleeveless tops and shorts, but would rather not wear long sleeves or a man’s trouser.
Of all the silhouettes, the mini appears freshest. And if retailers could send one message to manufacturers, they say it’s, “More dresses!” Below, two retailers’ comments and plans that reflect the attitude of the market.
Charlotte Iverson, owner, blueivy, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.:
“I’m looking for all spring clothes, especially new lines. I’ll visit my usuals, like C.C. Outlaw and Quick Reflex, but I also need to find the newer ones that my client has never seen. So, I’ll do a lot of walking this market.
“Color is most important. I think the bright colors for resort will be more subdued come spring. I plan to buy fresh oranges and lots of pink, especially hot pink.
“My customer will find prints refreshing, but she won’t wear head-to-toe looks. Instead, she’ll opt for a bottom or top in a fun print paired with a classic piece. Pucci-inspired pieces will be the hottest. I’ll only look at geometrics and florals if they make a statement. I’m moving away from animal prints in full looks. The newer interpretation is smaller items, or animal patchworked with other prints.
“I bought some gold dresses for holiday and plan to move forward with the trend this spring. I won’t carry real gold in jewelry, but may do some simple costume pieces like gold beads or chunky looks. Huge gold hoops seem too wild to me, but I may do some medium sized.
“Handbags have been very popular. Even microfiber still sells. The baguette wasn’t too big here, though. I picked up some tote-sized tapestry bags for holiday. Depending on how people respond to them, I may move forward with big bags.
“Lightweight, basic knits do well for spring. Since it’s cold here, people tend to layer them. I’ll pick up more in cotton because cashmere does better at holiday.
“In suits, I’m looking for really smooth, simple lines, but not traditional. Then, they can mix in a fun underpinning. Contemporary styles from For Joseph and Quick Reflex do better. So do zippers as opposed to buttons.
“I’m not sure how my customer will respond to dresses since I just opened. I did buy some dressier stuff for holiday. I find To The Max to be a great source, and price. For skirts, I see the mini making its way back in. I’ll do more minis, though with some sort of detail or embellishment. I like knee length, too. It looks great with a boot.
“I’ll move forward with capris, but not the super-short kind — more the cropped lengths, in lots of fun colors. People want to have fun again, after the long winter. I’ll also pick up some tie-neck halters and scoop-necked and three-quarter sleeved T-shirts.”
Gay Arnold, owner, Gaby’s, Milwaukee, Wis.:
“I’m a chameleon, so my store fills an eclectic niche, from casual to funky. Sometimes I like to dress clean and simple, but then I also love a ruffled blouse with a deep V. My customer is the same. Most importantly, she likes fresh, neat things.
“Some of my top lines are Sue Wong, who designs eveningwear at reasonable prices with excellent quality; Tempesta, which flies out of the store because it actually fits a woman’s body; Emozione, a new sweater line, Betsey Johnson and M. Kalan.
“Color is more vibrant overall. But instead of the warm jewel tones from this fall, spring color is more like a breath of fresh air, like you’re at the beach.
“I tend not to like prints, but may do some printed T-shirts paired with a jacket. Tropical and Pucci-inspired prints are great with cardigans too. If a geometric isn’t too wild or difficult, I may pick some up. But Eighties’ looks really aren’t me. I have so much animal now that I think my customer will be tired of it come spring. I
“I loved embellished jeans, but the trend has disappeared from clothes and gone back into the form of jewelry. Instead of costume jewelry, I help design custom pieces with two Midwestern artists who use semiprecious stones and freshwater pearls. They do all kinds of styles.
“I don’t really make much of the gold trend because I think you’re either a gold or silver person from the start. Jewelry is so personal. But, I carry one costume line with antique gold pieces called Sorrelli from the Bonnie Atlas showroom. I like to have some vintage pieces.
“We have all kinds of dresses, from sun to cocktail. Betsey Johnson is great. Her sizes are becoming easier to wear and she’s not all about party dresses anymore.
“For suits, I found a fantastic line walking through SoHo one day, called Agi Brooks. She does a retro Forties look. The workmanship and fabrics are beautiful, and everything’s lined.
“I would hate to see three-quarter sleeves and cropped pants go, because so many of my ladies don’t like sleeveless or shorts. But, my younger customer also looks great in these styles. I won’t do that many minis, but I bought a white, crocodile-embossed, leather mini and light blue, perforated mini from Tempesta.
“In knits, I loved the chunky look for fall. All the new fabrics in this category fit women a lot better, too. Women used to shy away from them because they looked lumpy. I prefer knits, but blouses are still hot. They’re very feminine.”

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