Spring fashion

Neutral notes

Spring gets a subdued start with plenty of pastels and a shift toward simplicity.

By Naila Francis

Just as the weather’s been slow to cooperate this year, fashion seems to be easing into spring, too.

The burst of color and vibrant details that ushered in the season in 2013 have given way to a toned-down palette with a soft, relaxed look driving many early trends.

“Neutrals are really big: white, cream, blush. Those shades that are really light, we’re seeing them from head to toe,” says Jessica Saphire, marketing director at the Willow Grove Park mall. “Even the accessories are neutral, although you might see a purse in a neon color, or the small cross-body bags, which are really big this year, in a magenta or neon green.

“It’s more of a resort look.”

While Pantone pinned radiant orchid as the hue to dominate 2014, it has yet to steal the show.

Instead, Jennifer Lenda, director of merchant marketing for The Bon-Ton department stores, is seeing an emphasis on pastels — Pantone colors like hemlock green, cayenne coral and placid blue — that are complementing more dominant shades of white, sand and gray.

Pink, from a delicate ballet tone to a hot fuchsia, is making a statement at Kohl’s department stores, where Sofia Wacksman, vice president of trend, says it can add a hint of playfulness to a daytime look or a more sophisticated touch for evening. Marine blues are generating interest, too.

“It’s everything from light-blue to bright-blue to navy-blue — really all across the board,” says Laura McDowell, spokeswoman for Marshalls and T.J. Maxx.

The trend is reflected in denim, which after several seasons of being splashed with color, makes a return to basic blue. But white jeans are expected to be even hotter — topped with a blazer for the office or flirty blouse for weekends.

Black and white, an ever-faithful combination, is another of the season’s key trends, especially when it comes to graphic prints and patterns. But this year, navy and white present an alternative.

“It’s a great way to brighten up for spring and for someone who wears a lot of black, it’s a nice way to add subtle color to your wardrobe,” says Lenda.

The combo also points to a resurgence in the nautical trend. At Willow Grove Park, in stores from LOFT to Bloomingdale’s, blue and white stripes feature prominently on blouses, light sweaters and layering tees.

“You’re seeing scarves with little anchors on them, and flats with sailor stripes or other nautical details. Nautical is big,” says Saphire.

Of course, so are florals.

“That’s always popular,” says Ashley Pompei, director of marketing for Montgomery Mall. “Once the flowers are blooming, then people really want to wear those patterns, as well, whether it be on shirts or blazers or dresses.

“We’re also seeing a lot of flowy, breezy light fabrics and materials, like silks and cottons, which are good for layering before it gets too hot.”

Though embellishments are more streamlined this year, Pompei has noticed an iridescent, almost-metal-like fabric adding a shine to shirts.

“I’ve seen that on accessories, too, so if you don’t want to go all out and wear an iridescent top, you can wear it maybe in a bag or with a belt. A belt can be a great way to break up an outfit with a little shimmer,” she says.

At this time of year, feminine fabrications, like sheer lace, ruffles and pleating, tend to dominate. But even these take a less-structured, ladylike approach, says Lenda.

Crochet, for instance, is associated with the return of the boho look.

“Crochet is everywhere right now,” says Saphire. “You might see a crocheted sleeveless vest with some fringe that goes down to the knees or an over-sized wide-knit type of shirt that you’d wear with slimmer pants. We’re seeing it in lots of layering pieces.”

Adding interest elsewhere is the new laser-cut treatment, especially with the faux leather detailing that was one of fall’s hottest looks, back detailing, geometric prints — especially in black and white — and the increasingly popular photoreal print.

“Givenchy made that very popular with his Bambi print tee, but it’s not so Disneyesque anymore,” says Michael A. Bartol, marketing coordinator for Willow Grove Park. “You might see a print that’s more of a cityscape or florals, something very graphic, and it’s on separates that you’d want to mix and match.”

This season boasts several surprising comebacks, including the crop top — paired with high-waisted jeans or a fuller skater skirt — the jumpsuit, overalls and Birkenstocks.

“There’s lots of fun styles to choose from with the jumpsuit: the full-length pant jumpsuit, the shorts. Some are strapless, some have a halter style, some have spaghetti straps,” says McDowell.

The overalls, notes Bartol, are more fitted than the 1990s version. Rolled up at the ankles and paired with a basic tee, it makes for effortless style — a simplicity evident in many of the season’s top trends.

In dresses, the maxi still reigns supreme, but an unfussy shift in a solid color, says McDowell, is a great option for the office and weekend fun.

“It’s very easy, very basic, where you can just put on a pair of shoes with it and go out the door,” she says.

“We’re almost going back to the basics,” notes Bartol, “things like just a white button-down or T-shirt, that you can incorporate in your wardrobe, simple silhouettes that can get you through the season without having to look like a crazy pattern person. You could pair a button-down woven with a pleated skirt and strappy heels, and that’s such a simple look.”

While the skinny pant seems here to stay, the new printed soft pant speaks to such ease.

“They’re a little bit looser, a little wider and we’re seeing them in lots of different softer fabrics,” says McDowell. “A lot of them are printed, like maybe a watercolor print or a black and white print. Skinny is really more in the jeans.”

According to Pompei, the tailored suit marks another departure from the skinny silhouette.

“It’s a classic, a really nice, clean, crisp look,” she says.

Wacksman equates such clean lines to a contemporary take on the mod, minimalistic style of the 1960s.

“The accessories are where it’s popping,” says Bartol, giving the example of a statement necklace and heels as the perfect way to dress up a casual jumpsuit.

Wedges, stacked heels, gladiator sandals and flats will provide plenty of variety in footwear, mostly in neutral hues, like black, white, camel and every other shade of brown. Navy and other blue hues, says McDowell, break up that palette.

Handbags, whether it’s a slouchy boho style, a tote or a small cross-body bag, boast more colors and details, including fringe, two-tone combos like black and mint green, laser cut-outs and whimsical prints such as florals or polka dots.

Though Memorial Day is still weeks away, the easiest way to welcome the warmer weather may be to literally lighten up.

“People are ready after winter to just brighten up their wardrobe — and white,” says Pompei, “is a great way to do that and make it fresh.”

– The Intelligencer, Bucks County Courier Times and Burlington County Times


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