Spring Forward with a Fashion Forward Wardrobe

A couple of weeks ago, my mom was complaining about how difficult it is to keep up with the alarming rate at which retailers force the new season’s fashion on us. It’s a rather frequent and time-consuming process, putting together a whole new seasonal wardrobe — especially when you’re making such a dramatic change from winter to spring, she lamented. I realized, I feel very much the same way: So many styles shift drastically from year to year, it’s hard to figure out what pieces to purchase when building a new closet full of in-style garments. So, before we hit the shops and get too far gone in our spring preparation — and end up with merchandise bought on impulse because we thought we remembered seeing something similar in a fashion magazine — I decided to do us all a huge favor and get the facts straight on this spring’s must-haves — and the basic pieces you need to get you on the right track to having a fabulous fashion forward 12 or so weeks of spring.

I sat down with local fashion expert, Christine McGowan, owner of Simplicity Boutique in Monroe, to get the low-down on all of the necessities you’ll need this season. We chatted about what to buy, what to keep from last year, and which accessories will best enhance your outfits. Christine is a graduate of FIT, where she studied fashion merchandising, buying, and marketing. Before opening her women’s clothing store in Monroe, she most recently worked in public relations at contemporary furniture/house wares retailer, West Elm, a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Now, with friend and business partner Romi Donagher, the Monroe resident runs two upscale boutiques in the Valley. She fills us in on all of the latest in spring fashion ’08.

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What types of shirts and dresses do you think are most prevalent this season?

There are two lengths of dresses. There’s the short short dress, and the maxi, which is a very long, beautiful look. These seem to be the most prominent. There also appears to be a trend to move away from the roomier, less form-fitting dresses, but I’m still seeing that look pretty often. Shirtdresses are big as well. And Diane Von Furstenberg has really reinvented herself — so the wrap dresses, in lots of fun prints, are back and better than ever; they’re definitely here to stay. (A lot of other less-expensive lines have done the wrap dress, too). The tunic is also very in — in lots of colors and prints. Sheer, frilly tops, too, are popular.

Should I hold on to my leggings to pair with tunics?

Not really. If you’re wearing a tunic or big swishy shirtdress, you want to pair it with the tight Bermuda shorts, which have kind of replaced the leggings. These are very big now, worn in either a slim or almost like a gaucho style. And as far as shorts go, there is also the very short short, in a dressier fabric — that’s something you see a lot of the celebrities wearing.

I bought several cropped jackets last year. Will I be able to continue wearing these?

The look now is not so much the crop jacket — it’s more of like a shrunken blazer, in a safari style. It’s borrowed from men’s fashion, but very lean and fitted. You’ll find it belted or not belted, in a canvas or a matte, with a tribal look to it — think handcrafted prints; button detail; and greens, tans, and beiges. This goes very well with the wooden jewelry and other safari-inspired accessories that are out there now. It’s important to bring in the accessories to complete the look. And of course, the trench coat is a must-have. You can really get it in any style (as well as the basic khaki). This one really goes across the board as far as fabrics and colors go. Juicy Couture has a really beautiful black patent leather one.

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Will we continue to squeeze into our skinny jeans this season?

Jeans are really across the board as well: from skinny to boot cut to wide leg. I’ve noticed a lot of wide leg, like as big as the bell-bottoms; and the high waist cut is very popular. The “in” shade this season is a very light wash.

I’ve been seeing a lot of “gladiator” sandals in stores lately. Is this going to be a big trend?

The gladiator sandals, in different colors, leather, and metallic, are very in style. I love those. But there’s a really wide range with shoes this season. There’s lots of slides with the little heal. Also, wedges and flats are popular — and of course, the peep toes. As far as color goes, there are two ends of the spectrum: There is the colorful, bright, vibrant look, which is very beautiful — think shiny patents. And then there is also the trend of the neutral, muted leather — particularly in grays and clean tans.

What colors and prints should we buy most of?

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The black and white combo is very big. Also, lots of bright colors: yellow, Kelly green, coral, orange — a lot of orange. Pair these vibrant hues with white jeans; the white really offsets the bright colors nicely. For the prints, there is a big floral trend, as well as the abstract-art-on-clothing-look, color block (Club Monaco is a good example of this), and sailor-inspired stripes.

What are the must-have accessories this season?

Everything is big — statement pieces. The safari wooden, chunky necklaces and bracelets are very in style — as well as geometric shapes. There’s a lot of color there also.

What kind of handbag should we invest in?

Think muted tones and colors — but if you’re wearing lots of color, don’t do color with your bag. Snakeskin is big; the woven bag is, for sure, still there; and big shoulder bags, too.

What are you keeping in your closet from last year?

Bermuda shorts, black and white, wide leg jeans, and wedges… I love wedges.

You can check out a lot of these of-the-moment looks at Christine and Romi’s two Hudson Valley boutiques — where you’ll find designers like Juicy Couture, Splendid, Ella Moss, Michael Stars, and an entire range of high-end denim, including Hudson, 7 For All Mankind, and Citizens of Humanity. The stores are currently having a sale on select winter items, with discounts between 20 and 40 percent off.

31 Lake St., Monroe

Simplicity North
251 South St., Windham

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