POSTED ON JANUARY 28, 2009:
Ain't No Sunshine
Economic lull reflected in this year's spring fashions
Seasonal Blend. The added bonus is that neutral shades last longer, and you can mix and match them this season with items from your winter wardrobe. No matter what the trends are, you'll want to pull in some of winter's brighter shades into your spring wardrobe whenever you can.
Lately I have felt like a broken record with my continual references to the economy in this column. People hear about it enough without coming across its mention in a fashion column; but I'm not the only fashion-oriented writer who takes note.
Many magazine covers boast of "affordable" pieces inside their pages. Some fashion spreads are constructed around how inexpensive each item is- arrows pointing to each piece with the 'under $100' label. This is because unlike food, electricity, water, housing, etc., fashion is not a necessity. Nor is it a luxury, but rather, is in some kind of need/want limbo
Well, clothing is a need, but new clothing, the latest trends and fashions are most certainly desires and not requirements. And lately, if you want new wearables of the spring frock variety, it seems the fashion universe knows that you're also thinking of the economy.
Although the looks for spring 2009 were imagined some time ago, and big box store trends were cheaply assembled in various Asian countries at least 18 months ago, the ho-hum of the world's economy must have already been in the minds of the designers who create "affordable" variations of those ideas. Economics and fashion have long gone hand-in-hand. There are actual studies comparing hemlines to a country's financial prosperity. Women of America first began wearing pants during the (original) Great Depression, and the Reganomics 1980s prosperity gave women the power suit.
The fashion world faces the potential loss of high-end goods. Fashion pundits question if the big-named items are still considered luxurious now that retailers are slashing prices so that even the average Joe (or Jane) can supposedly afford them.
News programs are praising Michelle Obama because, like the regular women of the First Lady's country, she shops at retailers like J. Crew and White House, Black Market -- not the house of Oscar de la Renta.
Most indicative is what rolls out this spring. The season used to mean bright colors, flirtatious shapes and patterns, but this spring's lines seem to be sullen and simple, looks that hint toward 'blue collar.'
Chances are if you own a basic t-shirt, you may not even need to invest one dime into this spring's trends. T-shirts are nothing new, but you don't need me to tell you that. This season, they are coming back in the most basic versions with some that are a little bit more inspired. For the basics, this spring's versions are your traditional crew neck (round) or v-neck in very sheer, thin fabrics. These versions are ideal for layering- either wearing something over the shirt like a cardigan or jacket or for other t-shirts. It's important to note that the thin fabric is not always flattering to those with zero body fat as the thin fabric often clings. This is also important to note when choosing the correct undergarments -- thin fabrics will show bra colors as well as bra fabrics. Find a bra that is cotton and smooth.
So you're likely thinking that you won't have to invest in new t-shirts for the spring, but many designers are getting creative. Rather than adding detailing like prints, rhinestones and buttons, the shape of the garment itself is slightly altered. Besides things additions like pockets, the sleeves and neckline have been changed.
Look for puffed, capped or butterfly sleeves or scalloped detailing. Seams throughout the garment can also add built-in detailing, from panels to weaving. Length has also shortened, which petite women will cheer about. T-shirts now hit just past the waist. It appears that in these times, even designers scrimp on fabric in the name of fashion.
Slice of Life
These basic tees are also arriving in the most basic of colors, and I don't mean red, blue, and green. Neutrals are becoming the go-to shade. Not only are basic colors appearing on nails (white and black are popular manicure selections for early '09) and makeup (clean faces without the bells and whistles of bright lips or eyes are prevalent for the spring) but for clothing. Mauves, oatmeals, sage greens, tans, blue-grays and regular grays and other bland shades are the prevalent tones for spring.
These are already a sad array of tones, but during the months that usually give us bright pinks, greens, blues and other cool shades it is a double downer. The added bonus is that neutral shades last longer (grey pants are a good staple for any closet for instance) and you can mix and match them with items you already have in your closet. No matter what the trends are, you'll want to pull in some of winter's brighter shades into your spring wardrobe whenever you can.
Not to say that spring isn't throwing us one or two bones. To counteract the potential blahs these colors can cause, find key pieces in one of this year's two spring shades: canary yellow and Kelly green.
Yellow is a tricky shade because it can make a person with a certain complexion look sickly. If this is the case for you, but you still desperately seek to have something in this bright hue to shake up the spring tones, purchase accessory pieces. Shoes and handbags in that shade won't cause you to look ill, whereas a scarf near your face or an object covering a lot of your body like a jacket will. If you can carry yellow, a jacket is a great way to carry off the color. It will add to an otherwise simple outfit and it gives you a break from the simplicity you may achieve by tossing on a black jacket.
While my own bias of Kelly green should be noted (it's my favorite hue), this vibrant shade of green is one that compliments any complexion and looks good with any hair color. Again, be bold with this color. A jacket, dress, skirt or flirty top will give your outfit a nice pop. If the rest of the outfit is simple, if the rest of the room is simple, be prepared to have the crowd's eye drawn to that item.
So, if you feel self-conscious about an area, it's best not to cover it in Kelly green. But, unlike canary yellow, the rest of the spring palette easily mixes and matches with Kelly green. Neutrals and yellows, no matter how bright, will clash horribly, whereas Kelly green gives a nice contrast.
Let the Legs Breathe
To pair these other basics, we have also had a return to old-fashioned looking denim. These past few seasons have been monopolized with dark denim in skinny cuts. This spring, relaxation is setting in. The cuts are looser, the shades are lighter. Ladies can opt for comfort in their denim, with wider legs both in wide-legged and boot cut jeans.
The boyfriend jean is also a good, hassle-free shape; find them in classic shades of stone washed blue. This doesn't mean that indigo shade that "mom jeans" appear in, but the nice faded color that comes to mind. Like the neutral shades, these jeans are a staple and no doubt are already present in your own closet- stuck in the back behind your dark, tight jeans.
But these basics and bland shades don't mean that fashion can't be fun. Always use accessories as your crutch to add flavor to any ensemble. And, because it's probable that these spring trends are already a part of your wardrobe, you can use that money you really want to spend on those colorful shoes, bags and jewelry that often become focal points on an outfit anyway.
In the end, the investment you make in these basic pieces mean that they won't be a complete waste of money. Their wearability will extend their shelf life; you can begin wearing these styles now in winter, on their own or as part of a multi-layered warm ensemble. Obviously these looks will be appropriate for spring and if this trend extends, perhaps they will get you through the beginning of summer. Of course, we can only hope that by summer the economy will work its way back to sunnier times and that, once again, our wardrobe will reflect it.
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