Spring Fashion Forecast –Joseph Meets the Jetsons

The biggest news for spring and summer ready-to-wear is – for once – not about hemlines, necklines, or whether to choose pants or a skirt. What’s making fashion headlines are the fabrics themselves – a rainbow burst of color and futuristic textiles worthy of Judy Jetson’s closet. Whether it’s cotton, linen, silk, or wool, chances are something will have been done to make the fabric shine, shimmer, curve, crinkle, fray, or repel dirt and rain. The range of looks from delicate to sporty calls for a variety of jewelry to complement the clothes.

From Joseph to Ziggy. Joseph, with his coat of many colors, would be quite the fashion plate this spring. Color is a critical element in most of the European and American ready-to-wear collections. It ranges from monochromatic tone-on-tone combinations such as Ralph Lauren’s ensembles to wild gypsy or hippie styles, complete with poncho and peasant blouse. When color is combined with high-tech fabrics, the resulting look is pure glam-rock; think of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, circa 1972. Even such dedicated neutralists as Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani have added bright color to their normally subdued palettes.

The reigning color for spring is pink, in all shades ranging from the palest whisper of blush to shocking Elsa Schiaparelli pink. Many of spring’s new clothes do pay homage to “Schiap” and to other great fashion forces of the early and mid-20th century. In particular, many designers are inspired by Claire McCardell, the American dressmaker who practically invented modern sportswear. Designers have incorporated a sporty, utilitarian sensibility into their collections, with looks like slim, knee-length or longer skirts and relaxed trousers topped with zip-front, windbreaker-style jackets. All are done up in luxurious fabrics like lightweight cashmeres and polished cottons. Flat shoes and hands-free bags frequently complete the look.

Yellow is likely to be another key color, deepening into some shades of orange. Blues and greens continue; look for a variety of blues, and more of that love-it-or-hate-it shade of lime green.

Though color rules the news, neutrals never go away. Gray, the color that took the fashion world by storm last fall and winter, remains the most important neutral for spring. It’s a perfect foil for pink. Black and white, always a crisp and cool spring-summer combination, showed up on many runways last fall, though all-white ensembles seemed to curry as much favor as black-and-white looks. Here’s where high-tech fabric innovations stand out – new fabric coatings keep whites stain-resistant, if not practically stain-proof. Good news not only for walk-everywhere urban dwellers but also for all chocolate and pasta lovers!

Finally, beige is still an important neutral, and even if it didn’t figure as prominently on the runways as gray did, it will be part of most well-dressed women’s wardrobes, where the ubiquitous khakis and great white shirt are a never-fail combination for the casually elegant.

The proof is in the fabric. Teflon, renowned for its use in cookware and as a nickname for presidents impervious to criticism, now makes its mark on the fashion world. DuPont’s patented no-stick formula is being used as a fabric protector, where it allows stains and spills to be practically wiped away. Even better, according to a report by the Fashion Group International, treating a fabric with Teflon doesn’t change its weight, look, feel, or breathability.

The other “proof” of the season is waterproof. Last fall, Martin Margiela introduced a sheer, floaty, waterproof silk chiffon overcoat (yes, silk!) for Hermès. Look for more of this kind of fascination with revolutionary fabrics to become a permanent part of fashion developments.

At the opposite end of the scale from fabric protection is fabric deconstruction. Spring ’99 fashions seen at designers’ shows had a fair share of torn, ripped, shredded, and frayed edges, and it’s going to be a season of joy for those who hate to iron. Designers such as Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Badgley Mischka are taking dry-clean-only fabrics like taffeta, organza, and wool and washing them. The resulting wrinkles, bunching, and puckering are used as stylistic elements. Avant-garde designers like Yohji Yamamoto use safety pins to fasten garments. Ribbons are gaining interest; some skirts appear to have been made from rows of ribbon.

Fabric treatments continuing from earlier seasons include wrapping and draping, the use of seaming and zippers to create curves, beading and embroidering, and layering different colors of sheers to create variegated shades that “move” as the wearer walks. Look for other ornamental details like scalloped hems and neckline edges.

How to Use Fashion News

Each season, the Fashion Group International assembles a committee of experts to predict which of the current trends are the most likely to make it from runway to reality. For spring-summer 1999, the forecasts include:

  • anything pink;

  • ponchos and peasant blouses;

  • summer-weight sweaters and knits;

  • sporty looks like sweatshirt styles and cropped pants;

  • backless or bare midriff looks; and

  • hands-free bags like bike packs.

In addition to these, JCK predicts three current trends to remain strong for spring: the color gray, cardigan-style sweaters or twin sets, and knee-length or longer skirts. Here are some of our suggestions for jewelry to complement the newest clothes:

  • Tone-on-tone coordination of gemstone to apparel will be attractive. Tourmalines, rhodolite garnets, rubies, pink sapphires, and amethysts are some suggestions to pair with pink. Blue or green gems will complement blue or green clothes. On their own, yellow gemstones may be hard to coordinate with yellow apparel, but when combined in a setting with diamonds, deep orange or brown gemstones, or gems in contrasting colors, they should make an attractive accent.

  • Relaxed, sporty styles call for jewelry that is trim, tailored, and not too lacy or embellished.

  • The opposite holds true for embroidered and beaded dresses and delicate cardigan sweaters. The prettiest jewelry for these clothes is romantic, feminine, antique-inspired, and delicate.

  • White metals look good against gray and cool tones of pink.

  • Frayed and deconstructed looks provide an excellent backdrop for rugged, ethnic-inspired matte yellow gold and druse gemstones.

  • The return of the peasant blouse means a wide-open neckline that needs a necklace to accent the expanse of skin. Try a choker or a pendant style, either short enough to clear the blouse or long enough to reach the waist.

  • If the “hippie” and “gypsy” influences catch on, watch for a resurgence in hoop earrings and other dangles.

  • Backless dresses call for a new approach to jewelry. Don’t forget that a rope of pearls can be worn knotted or draped down the back as well as the front!

  • The prevailing clothes silhouette is one of ease. Trim and tailored looks are not as tight as they have been in previous seasons. A looser, less-structured look is newer, but it’s a neat loose, not a sloppy, “hide-in-your-clothes” kind of loose. Consider a little jeweled safety pin as a whimsical way to fasten a soft, boxy jacket.