Los Angeles’ summer market heralded the return of classic dressing for the season defined by easy-fitting silhouettes and vintage-inspired prints.

Retro prints were on dresses and tops from designers such as Corey Lynn Calter and Betsey Johnson, and contemporary vendors, including 1060 Sherman, which made its debut at market with a fresh collection of separates and sundresses rendered in proprietary safari prints. Pieces wholesale from around $50 to $100. Top sellers from the Los Angeles-based company included cuffed, linen Bermuda shorts and tunic-length sleeveless printed tops with ribbon-waist ties, said company president Jennifer Cohen.

Showroom owner Laurie Hasson, who represents Corey Lynn Calter, said bestsellers for the company included high-waisted skirts in Sixties-inspired prints, loose-fitting baby-doll frocks in the company’s scribble-like “Girly Doodle” print and Mod-inspired shift dresses.

Fabric was another key selling point for buyers at market, which was held from Friday to Tuesday. “People are looking more at fabrics with richer textures,” said Cathy Cooley, account executive for Betsey Johnson. “Everyone is doing jersey, so they’re coming to us for something different.”

Top sellers at Betsey Johnson included a spaghetti-strap sundress covered in a peach-and-taupe embroidered overlay and a blue-and-white sundress with an allover anchor print. “Buyers in L.A. tend to go with the more editorial pieces,” Cooley said. “People from, say, Northern California, will [order] more basic dresses.”

Voile, available in cotton or a silk-cotton blend, was one of the lightweight fabrics favored by labels at the Designers & Agents show, such as San Francisco-based contemporary line Chaiken and Sausalito, Calif.-based Shirt, a division of CP Shades that, after launching women’s shirts for summer, said its top seller was a plain white button-front shirt.

While puffing up the sleeves on a cotton voile blouse in pale yellow plaid, Los Angeles-based designer Louis Verdad said his summer collection is “about volume and comfort.”

Jill Stuart used cotton poplin for the first time in its transitional collection, segueing from spring to fall. “It’s a lot cleaner and the details aren’t so fussy,” said Lisa Block, sales director for the New York-based company.

The trend toward roomier silhouettes extended to denim, providing relief for women squeezing themselves into skinny jeans. Los Angeles’ Denim of Virtue unveiled three new silhouettes for summer: a flare style with a 22-inch leg opening, a slouchy boyfriend cut and a trouser with a 3-inch-wide cummerbund built into the waist. The top seller at AG Adriano Goldschmied was a lightweight, high-waisted jean featuring a 23-inch leg opening.

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The move toward wide-leg jeans concerned the buyers of B. Luu, a contemporary boutique in Pasadena, Calif. “The customer just got used to the skinny,” said Jessica Marquart. Still, B. Luu bought denim trousers, high-waisted pants and skirts, and Empire-waist dresses from brands such as La Rok and B with G.

Dresses were also on the shopping list for Shelly Knowl, owner of a lifestyle shop called Miss Holiday in Bakersfield, Calif. She searched for “something light and wispy and summery,” preferably with a hem falling at mid-thigh or right above the knee.

Responding to retailers’ demand for dresses, Morphine Generation tripled the number of its frocks, expanding from the cotton shirting fabric it usually used to encompass chiffon, silk, jersey and linen. For tops and tunics, it also featured a proprietary fabric made in Japan that was infused with vitamins C and E to soften the wearer’s skin. “Everything is getting sophisticated,” said Lora Kee, marketing manager for the Los Angeles company.

While dresses were loose and flowing, jackets maintained a bit of structure. A white swing jacket with a funnel neck and three big buttons was a popular item at Rachel Mara, a Portland, Ore.-based contemporary line.

At the Brighte show, gray-hued bags were a top seller at Shih by Stephanie Lin, a handbag line based in Beverly Hills. “People are picking up the red and the basics, but [gray] is the color of the moment,” said operations manager Kelly Boyd. Top sellers for the company included gray bags from its Keira line, which wholesale from $210 for a shoulder bag to $240 for a tote.

Karen Kohl, who handles marketing for Los Angeles-based accessories company Lockheart, agreed that “gray is going to be really in for fall,” though Kitson owner Fraser Ross placed an order for a Lockheart crocodile embossed distressed cowhide bag in red.

Across Lockheart’s collections — bags wholesale from $150 to $300 and up — Kohl said big bags and small clutches were still the go-to body shapes, but, “we do sell the medium bags, because we are not only selling to trendy customers.” With large bags keeping up their momentum for summer, Boyd said Shih was adding more facets to the basic prototype. Bags in the brand’s Reid and Remi collections for summer feature straps that can be worn across the shoulder or body.

Market Trends

  • Empire waistlines on knee-length, heirloom-inspired silk dresses and also on more casual, cotton jersey day dresses.
  • Bright, bold prints in vivid colors such as tangerine, lime, teal and chartreuse often on cotton voile tunics and dresses.
  • Sixties-inspired knee-length shift dresses in solid, vibrant colors and retro prints.
  • Subdued colors such as light gray, taupe, dusty lavender and light latte — often in a cotton eyelet or jersey.
  • Denim Bermuda shorts and denim miniskirts with cuffed bottoms, mostly in clean, dark washes or light Seventies-inspired beachy blues.

With contributions from Rachel Brown

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