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The sheer expanse of whites, creams and beiges across the fashion field this season is like a refreshing palate cleanser after all the tweed, jewel tones, and furry separates from winter. The little black dress has officially been supplanted by the little beige dress, creating a look that says a lot by saying a little—channeling focus solely on the wearer. I saw a friend at a wedding recently, wearing a crisp neutral cocktail dress that left one of her shoulders bare, and I thought, Wow, she looks fantastic (as opposed to my usual, Wow, that dress looks fantastic on her). Some of the best pieces are simple asymmetrical sheaths and cream lightweight separates: Rachel Roy and Narciso Rodriguez in particular sent some pitch-perfect examples down the runway, while Acne's minimalist cuts or Risto Bimbiloski's elegant silk dresses are more boutique-friendly options.
2. Dizzying Prints
If you can only afford to buy one new thing for spring, it's pretty impossible to go wrong with an eye-catching pattern. Not only will a single piece carry you a long way in terms of making a statement (how often is anyone wowed by a new blazer, really?), but the real excitement for the style-forward now lies in mixing prints in new and inventive ways—stripes and florals, color-block and swirling abstracts... you get the idea. Peter Som and Marc Jacobs are mix masters in their own right, but Thakoon, DKNY and the African-influenced Suno are also great sources for inspiration. Pick out a watercolor floral skirt, a tribal-print scarf, a multi-hued cardigan or a bright striped tank and you'll be surprised how often it'll come out of your closet and manage to make more interesting pairings with what you already own.
3. Mesh, Lace and Cut-Outs.
While it's true I would never recommend wearing a completely transparent skirt or caftan outside of your own home (I guess if you're heading to the beach in Miami or a sun-lit cafe on the coast of Mexico, that's fine), but I must tell you: there's a lot of skin-baring business going on this season. My advice would be to avoid the underoo-baring dresses, but consider incorporating the trend in the form of a mesh-topped dress (hey, it's the Winter Olympics, after all! Figure skating is back!) or a lace-embellished tank. Heck, consider going whole-hog and buying a diaphanous top that you can layer with a tank, or investing in a dress with some sexy, well-placed cut-outs or corset-like detailing. Think ballerina, not stripper. That said, a lingerie upgrade might well be in order.
4. Sparkle and Shimmer
In some categories, it's pretty easy to see how the recession has influenced the city's fashion in new and interesting ways. In others... well, sometimes you just have to look at the person next to you and shrug your shoulders. This season, the shoulder-shrugging items in question include head-turning pieces like head-to-toe sequin minidresses, silver harem-inspired pants, and metallic shorts. That's right, cuffed metallic shorts. And you know what? The 3.1 Phillip Lim shorts look pretty freaking chic, actually. Do they seem completely inappropriate given some people are still looking for gainful employment? Maybe. But dammit, we're talking about fashion, here—let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. A little shimmer and sparkle can go a long way, and in this case, a lot of sparkle can go even farther.
5. Sporty is Sexy
Last year, the city was introduced to an entirely new addition to the "upscale" clothing market: sweatpants. Yes, sweatpants. Cult French designer Isabel Marant introduced a pair of simple, clean-cut gray sweats that could still fetch over $250 on eBay (I checked), and Alexander Wang had the audacity to create (and sell!) $225 sweat shorts. Now, while the high-price market for sweats continues to amaze and befuddle, the reverberations within the industry have produced some creative results. Proenza Schouler paired shimmering evening skirts with wetsuit-inspired long-sleeve shirts (creating a funky, surf-to-cocktail party effect), while Rag & Bone went the schoolboy blazer route. Alexandre Herchcovitch even made a football-shaped clutch, while Wang one-upped his Spring 2009 sweatshorts with padded-shoulder sweatdresses for Spring 2010. In all iterations, the concept takes a very singular slice of Americana—our earnest sportiness—and gives it a more chic spin, with upscale materials and clever tailoring.
6. The New Power Suit
Fall's suiting was all about strong shoulders, slim-cut trousers, and overall sharp silhouettes. The bold look telegraphed confidence—the kind of confidence that says, "Don't screw with me, I mean business. Even if these shoulders are a bit ridiculous." Spring's take is softer around the edges, favoring silky fabrics and relaxed shapes. The jet-set suiting is part pajama, part traveling to St. Tropez on a private jet—does that sound too silly? Well, maybe it is: I'll be the first to admit I never expected a matching silk blazer-and-trousers suit, paired with a slouchy white tee, to look quite so chic. If Fall did business over a martini at a downtown bar, Spring closes the deal outdoors holding champagne. A simple pair of sack-waist silk pants is an easy way into the idea (paired with a blazer or cardigan you already own); or Vena Cava has a seriously wearable faded black suit with cropped pants and an effortlessly chic blazer.