Spring into fashion

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March 21, 2005 // UPDATED 1:53 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Joe Widmer
Joe Widmer

March 21, the first official day of spring has come. So chuck the chunky winter sweaters and prepare for a fresh-as-a-petal look . . . OK, if you're not ready to toss your warmer-wear out the window while near-freezing temps persist, you can at least hit the stores. Hot new spring clothes have arrived!

The look du jour: lightweight fabrics, vibrant and bold yet relaxed. Full cotton skirts that hit just below the knee and patterns influenced by Mediterranean markets and other exotic locales are in for women. And men's fashion boasts a relaxed but brightly colored look, featuring bright accessories for the workplace and bold and striped polo shirts for casual wear.

On the job

Although the business-casual days of the '90s seem to be fading away at many Downtown offices, retailers say men and women donning business-professional attire can still make a strong fashion statement by smartly using color.

Ann Assante, vice president of divisional merchandise for men's clothing at Off 5th Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet, 655 Nicollet Mall, said men will want to go to work in their traditional business dress, but add "a pop of color" with their tie or handkerchief.

What "pops?" Try a key-lime or tangerine tie set against a black suit.

Assante also said blazers are en vogue for men, substituted for a traditional suit on casual Fridays (at least at those workplaces that still have them). The men's lineup also suggests that this may be the year for flat-front trousers.

If a key-lime handkerchief isn't in your future, Assante said that the overall men's wear credo this spring is "relaxed dressing with an edge."

The same would be said for women's wear but with more emphasis on "edge."

Beads, sequins and embroidery aren't just for trim anymore. At both Off 5th and Marshall Field's, these former fringe embellishments now cover all, from collar to waist-level. Some convey classy elegance; others seem perfect for a night of clubbing Downtown.

Tuck one of these novelty tops under professional-wear, and all you need to do to go from worker-bee to drinks-on-the-town looks is take off your cardigan. Kristen Walecka, vice president for divisional merchandise for women's clothes at Off 5th, said "Skirts or pants with novelty sweaters have become much more important [and] can cross into eveningwear."

Color

After a long monochromatic winter of grays and whites, fashion designers are hoping consumers are ready to let their body be a canvas for brightly colored spring merchandise.

Mellow blue can be found on everything from men's shirts and ties to women's bags, shoes, skirts and, especially, accessories.

However, all blues look mellow compared to this season's hottest color: turquoise.

Laura Schara, a fashion expert for Marshall Field's, 700 Nicollet Mall, said turquoise can be found in all sorts of places, from retail to jewelry stores, and the "It" color can be found in a broad range of styles and costs.

But Schara says that although turquoise and lighter colors will be dominant in the beginning of the spring; darker, "spicier" colors (such as cinnamon-brown) will reign towards mid- to late-summer.

Accessorize

While color is of maximum importance with this spring's fashion, according to Schara, the devil is in the details.

"People still want to be individuals," Schara said.

In Retail World, that's where accessories come in.

Schara said jewelry is an easy way to put a unique stamp on a cool, trendy spring look. "The great thing about this [spring lineup of] jewelry is how you can find it at all kinds of different prices," she said. New bangles and baubles at Off 5th ranged from $15 to $40.

Accessories can be found in plenty of lively blues and greens (including turquoise, of course). And for those wanting to really make a statement, there are plenty of metallic accessories to choose from; silver shoes and gold bags indicate that brighter days are just around the corner.