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Airy dresses, in neutrals, will be look of spring

Metallic accents, shorter hemlines, jersey fabrics highlight Fashion Week
/ Source: The Associated Press

Thousands of outfits were paraded on the runways of New York Fashion Week as top designers previewed their collections for spring. But what — if any — look will take off?

The dress certainly was a key item, but it's hard to narrow it down further considering that the fashion editors, retailers and stylists who often influence what the rest of us wear saw every shape from sacks to chemises. Generally, though, the idea was to keep dresses airy and light instead of fussy or tight.

Other big headlines to emerge from the eight days of fashion shows were short hemlines, spring coats, metallics for glitz instead of beads, and a very white, black and beige palette with occasional pops of blue and yellow. Graphic prints were popular, too.

There were virtually no pastels — the traditional springtime colors — and very few pants.

"Dresses sell well," said Stephanie Solomon, Bloomingdale's fashion director, noting that dresses started to take over retail racks this past spring and are expected to do well this fall. "Trends don't have to change completely from season to season. Each season just has to morph a little bit from the one before."

So, instead of tunics with leggings there will be minidresses (a loose shape balances the shorter length) and instead of chunky cardigans, there will be boxy jackets.

"The range, from the clean lines of Narciso (Rodriguez) to the layers at Marc (Jacobs), encourages shopping," added Candy Pratts Price, executive fashion editor of Style.com.

"The U.S. has made a concerted effort to think of the customer. The designers are not saying ‘You made a mistake with the leggings you just bought,' they're saying let's make the look a little breezy, a little easy, but wear the leggings if you want," Pratts Price said.

No one in the fashion industry expects people to buy a full new wardrobe each season, she explained. Instead, designers are giving many options for building a bigger, more versatile closet.

There also was a noticeable effort to mix up lengths, fabrics and levels of formality on the runways. It was almost a prerequisite for each fashion show to feature at least one outfit that consisted of a long top like a tunic with a ballerina-style short sweater or a cropped jacket. There also were a lot of fancy items paired with casual ones. "I love the trend of wearing a dressy brocade coat over something casual," said Bloomingdale's Solomon. "Then you always look polished."

When listing their inspirations for the season, several designers mentioned strong, independent women — women who likely dress for themselves instead of their boyfriends, their bosses or their catty friends. That might explain why there seemed to be less skin on display.

But being bare isn't the only way to be sexy: Layers upon layers of sheer fabric — a look spotted everywhere from Vera Wang to Marchesa — were smoldering and seductive.

Movement of fabric also was very important, which is why so many collections prominently featured jersey fabric. Wang and Michael Kors were among those who specifically said they were inspired by dancers, while Zac Posen said he studied the underwater world of Esther Williams.

For anyone looking to plan their spring purchases, Pratts Price suggests these items at the top of the shopping list:

  • Something in jersey. "It's not particularly figure-forgiving if you go for one of the Martha Graham dresses, but you can get a top and still be a part of the trend."
  • A navy evening outfit. While there was a lot of black, too, navy was fresher and more modern while still being appropriate for even the most formal occasions. Pratts Price is partial to some of the midnight looks from Bill Blass.
  • A new trench coat in a color other than beige. "It's not about being a rain coat that keeps you dry, it's about a coat that makes a statement," she said.