Spring Fashion Forecast: Romance

By Hedda T. Schupak, Senior Editor, Fashion

What are the most important words to sum up spring/summer ready to wear? Ultrafeminine, pretty, delicate, light, sheer, ornamented, artistic, romantic. The Paris and Milan runway shows went beyond even the extreme of sheer, with bare-breasted models wearing nothing over their skirts and pants except a few necklaces or ribbons and bows. Don’t expect this au naturel idea to carry over to real fashion, but the news is good for jewelry this season.

Jewelry is everywhere. Delicate styles with substantial proportions look best now, as do chunky, raw, ethnic pieces juxtaposed against plain jerseys. In necklaces, look either for layers of pale, icy gemstone beads or pearls, achieved with multi-strand torsades, or for long ropes worn triple and quadruple. Another look is the collar with multiple dangles, very Egyptian in feel. Women who prefer simplicity will find it in the diamond solitaire necklace or in a neckwire and pendant combo, a strong continuation from previous seasons. Chain styles are more open and delicate than in seasons past.

All those bare arms are good news for bracelets. Look for last season’s love of the cuff to continue. Look, too, for substantial bracelets that weave metals, gems and pearls into a kind of precious fabric. Mesh and chain mail are good examples. Delicate dangling earrings look right with delicate clothes, and rings can be either intricate and lacy or simple, big and bold.

Romance is the underlying feeling for all of the new spring clothes, whether tailored or unabashedly feminine. In trim, tailored shapes, romance comes from the choice of colors, which include predominantly the cool tones of blues, grays and violets, or warmer flashes of pinks, reds and purples. Colors may be pale and icy or deep and saturated. The electric lime green of the past few seasons was less evident on runways, but retail experts say it still sells like crazy, so expect to see it remain in stores. White is always a favorite.

Romance is added to jackets by taking away the blouse. The jacket-over-visible bra, jacket-over-tube-top or jacket-over-bare-body look is popular, with layered, beaded necklaces camouflaging the open expanses of skin. Jacket and dress combinations are important looks for business.

The overall silhouette hasn’t changed much from last spring. Clothes are still trim and close to the body, but not as tight as they were. Jackets in particular are loosening up and moving away from the body, but the most notable newness comes from fabric ornamentation and the eternal question of hemlines. They’re dropping in skirts but rising in pants. The pants to have now are either Capri or just-below-the-knee clamdiggers. When Capri pants are a tad too casual, slim long trousers remain chic, but are cropped above the ankle. Women who prefer a looser, longer pant will like the drawstring pajama pant, while fall’s loose, dropped trouser continues in spring fabrics.

The new spring skirt to have is pleated and knee length, with a fullness reminiscent of the ’50s. Think Donna Reed, not Dior, though – we’re not back to the New Look just yet. These pleats will make all but the most reed-thin woman look wide, however, so the option remains to wear a slim, straight pencil skirt just below the knee. Top either skirt with a trim, sleeveless top, pairing monochromatic with straight skirts and contrasting colors with pleats.

If all this requires too much thought in the morning, then just toss on a delicate, winsome, feminine dress and be out the door. Delicate dress fabrics gain body and substance with rich embroidery, ruffles and ruching or beading.

Let’s also hope for a hopping social season, because evening dresses are making the most news, with two silhouettes popular. One is a bare-back, bare-shoulder, bare-anything-you-want winsome mermaid in form-fitting simple matte jersey or ornamented fabrics like sheer silk, devoré velvet, lace, beaded, ruffled or embroidered. There’s also a return of the classic ballgown, with a shoulderless fitted bodice and full skirt, often in layers of tulle.

For daytime, a few more pieces are considered essential, in addition to cropped pants, slinky dress and pleated skirt. These include a classic white shirt; a cardigan sweater, a shawl-size scarf; colored shoes, especially slingbacks, or flat sandals and dress-coat combinations.

Finally, a last word on fabric treatments: when fabrics and trims are richly ornamented, accessories usually are few. This spring, fabric treatments are often monochromatic; i.e. tone-on-tone embroidery, beading or ruching. Burnout velvet is an especially important treatment right now; look for it in pale colored evening mermaid dresses for spring.

Jewelry looks right with these rich-yet-delicate fabrics. The whole idea of romance has always included jewelry and that remains true. The key is to keep jewelry from overpowering the clothes; that’s why the airier look of pearls and piled-on beads works so well.

Don’t get trapped in a fear of size – big jewelry works, as long as it follows the mood of the clothes. Texturing, detailing and faceting are the jewelry equivalents of fabric treatments, and the two work surprisingly well together. What doesn’t work is bold, rigid jewelry with delicate, winsome fabrics, but some of the solid matte jerseys can carry off a bold, highly polished collar or cuff. All in all, mostly anything goes in jewelry, except, oddly, some traditional standards, which look a bit dated in a season of art and romance. Luckily, the shapes can be updated with surface treatments and an added dangle.