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FASHIONS Flashback to more ladylike styles have been predicted for spring



Published: Sun, April 6, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Bohemian styles enjoyed a short-lived popularity.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK -- The fashion pendulum has swung again, this time knocking out the loose bohemian styles that were all the rage only a year ago.

Many of spring's top looks are polished, pretty and quite ladylike; the clothes are reminiscent of the 1950s with their polka dots, small floral prints and bows, but they are a little sexier than the average American housewife was wearing at the time.

Think more Brigitte Bardot and a little less June Cleaver.

"There were a variety of different decades covered for spring but the '50s seem to be the lynchpin decade. (This past) fall-winter began to mark a change to a chic, ladylike dressing with pencil skirts and high-heel pumps so the spring trend just sort of fell into place," says Avril Graham, executive fashion and beauty editor at Harper's Bazaar.

This might mean an end to sloppy dress -- women of the '50s wouldn't dare leave the house in the oversized, mismatched clothes now seen on the street -- but the new style isn't a fussy one, either.

Outfits are pulled together with simple touches such as sweater sets, slim belts, colorful shoes and matching handheld handbags. "This whole look is easy to wear without looking overly dressed," Graham says.

It's also a trend within the financial reach of most people.

Those who can't afford to run out and buy Marc Jacobs' new pastel-colored tweed suits with 3/4-sleeves can probably find something similar in a vintage clothing store.

Also put peek-a-boo shoes, ballet flats, halter tops and cat-eye sunglasses -- all available in a range of prices -- on a shopping list.

Mary Jimenez, vice president of merchandising for eLuxury, calls the style both "grown-up cute" and "a nice cohesive look."

Has wide appeal

"Designers are listening more to what women want," she says. "Last year, clothes were dark and somber and edgier. People are ready for this spring in so many ways: People are depressed, they want to see something happy. Women want to look pretty. And last year's peasant (look) was for the very young, while this appeals to a wider spectrum of women."

A new DKNY dot dress, for instance, is not only for teenage waifs, Jimenez says, because the designer wisely put small dots on top with the pattern getting gradually larger toward the hemline.

Aliza Licht, senior public relations director for Donna Karan, says the spring trunk shows have attracted women in their 20s through 60s, many of whom are looking for '50s-inspired garments.

"Corset waists pull you in, a lot of gathering at the hip hides sins and halters are flattering. It (1950s dressing) sounds like a really scary idea but the clothes are made to be flattering," Licht says.

Banish trouble spots

Graham also points out that colorful accessories on the feet and in the hair and hand draw the eye away from a body's trouble spots.

Delicate makeup continues the retro look.

According to Graham, just a little pink on the lips and cheek and a touch of dark eyeliner are a complement to the classy clothes, and a Grace Kelly chignon hairdo is the ideal final touch.

"We haven't done this in a while but at last women want to look ladylike, elegant and feminine," Graham says.




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