All-American Romance

Though concocted months prior to Sept. 11, fashions for spring and summer seem, somehow, appropriate for the era. A folksy kind of romance—part Summer of Love hippie-style and part modern Laura Ingalls—was the most popular theme presented by designers, signifying a return to simpler times and a tribute to tradition.

In the time since, of course, patriotism has become the second important element of fashion, and anything featuring Old Glory or her colors is a sure bet for success this season. Either way, fashion features pure nostalgia, tinged with sentimental pride in who we were and who we are.

The Prairie Girl look actually started in the fall, but it continues through spring with lacy blouses, wide-leg hipster trousers, and low-slung cowboy-esque belts and buckles by Ralph Lauren.

Oscar de la Renta, meanwhile, took the look to a more elegant level, presenting pretty summer lace dresses that infuse Grace Kelly classicism with ’70s-inspired flowing lines and ’80s-style oversized belts.

Following the romance trail, other trends focused on the ’70s theme with lots of jersey, halter-top lines, and layering. Marc Jacobs’s slim jersey pants and tops in graphic earth tones, for example, were pure Marsha Brady.

Romance continued as a theme in floral and paisley prints on blouses and dresses, flowing lines of layers and full skirts, and layers of chiffon at Chanel. To accessorize the romance, runway designers chose heart motifs and strappy sandals that laced up the calf.

Urban renewal. Amid all the hearts, flags, and nostalgia, however, designers are keeping an eye on the practical and offering women updated versions of urban favorites. While a far cry from the utilitarianism of past seasons, Spring 2002 does offer sleeker lines for the minimalist woman. The look isn’t severe but offers a more feminine view of functionality. Jackets are shorter, shoulders softer, and skirts longer than they were in the past few seasons.

Winter’s trend toward the white suit continues for spring and summer, and the result is pretty pant or skirt suits with more relaxed jackets and subtle touches of femininity. For the business-minded, Giorgio Armani showed pantsuits with nearly billowing wide legs, slightly tailored short and boxy jackets, and a palette dominated by black and white.

Many designers infused feminine wiles into their collections by slashing peek-a-boo cutouts into the clothes. Gucci, for example, featured flower and heart-shaped cutouts in both the bodice and skirt of simple pieces.

Jewelry watch. While there was a notable absence of jewelry on the runways, fine jewelry suitable for these spring fashions includes lacy woven gold and platinum mesh designs, plenty of bohemian designs with clusters of gemstone beads, and a focus on romantic pieces, including drop earrings. With so many earth tones and natural inspirations, the rich yellow color of high-karat gold will be a good match. Watch for layers, both in individual pieces and in combinations such as stacks of bangles. Gemstones will be chunky and natural in shape and cut. Finally, heart-themed collections will be rivaled only by patriotic themes for the season’s top sellers.