There's a sea change working its way into spring fashion.
Nautical styling, that classic, perennial springtime theme, is expanding its definition, as green livens up the traditional red, white and blue spectrum, and anchor-and-crest detailing makes way for other sea-inspired motifs, such as fish, seashells and starfish. You'll also find coral surfacing in many collections and, if you look carefully, flashes of silver accents -- in belts and jewelry -- among the new looks. But it's not only fruits de mer that will contribute to the new spectrum: citrusy island brights, fruits de terre, you might say, will provide a welcome respite for the weary.
OC Following are some of the pearls of wisdom offered by Baltimore
ANN TAYLOR This season, the strongest trends at Ann Taylor will be "longer jackets, especially windowpane plaids in Charmeuse and crepe," according to Peggy Kaufman, senior vice president.
Other styles set for spring include: tailored city short suits; shaped sheaths in soft printed crepe; A-line jackets and dresses, long-over-short looks with cardigans or riding jackets over little pleated skirts, and nautically inspired separates.
ANNAPOLIS CLOTHING Buyer Pat Bavis-Puller says the focus for spring will be on back-to-basics career clothing. Peabody blouses -- basic, short-sleeve shells -- will be found in faille, crepe de Chine and silk, in bright and pastel solids or floral prints. Lace trim detailing will soften up the basic shape. Blouses "will generally be paired with 19- to 25-inch slim skirts for more tailored looks, or 32-inch full skirts for a more feminine look," she says. Career and city shorts will be an option as well, often cut full, and paired with long boxy jackets. Some large-sized options at Annapolis Woman boutiques are bright linen suitings; short jewel-neck jackets with slim skirts, and two-piece dressing in bright challis prints.
"In my opinion, shorts are going to be just as strong, or stronger, than last year," says owner-buyer Margie Cantor. "They're replacing skirts for some occasions." Jackets are still of central importance, she feels, and slim pants will continue to be a bifurcated garment of choice. "This spring we are doing a lot of walking shorts and jackets, knee-length skirts paired with longer jackets, and anoraks paired with leggings, stirrups or bike shorts." Some favorite lines include Andrea Jovine ("lots of jackets with pearls, mesh tops over stirrups and capris"); dots and stripes from Hi-Tech, and bright appliqued and jeweled designs from IBE. Another favorite is Kikit, "very retro, with lots of accordion-pleated short skirts, great blazers, colorful sweaters, fun silk shorts, and patchwork tops in apple green, raspberry and tangerine."
BODY AND SOLE "For summer we get real sporty, active, fun," manager Barbara Janoff says.
In the fun category, sequined or stone-studded denim jackets with matching bustiers might fill the bill, while "legging sets" -- oversized T-shirts with coordinated leggings -- might appeal to those more actively inclined. As for sporty, lots of blazers and walking shorts will be offered, with 90 Degrees being a particular favorite shorts-and-jacket line for Ms. Janoff.
Bright colors will continue to be strong, often complementinblack and white, and all white will be prevalent too. Off-the-shoulder looks will be offered in cotton sweaters from Zero to Sixty, and in fitted, short dresses from Yes, a line that's "fun, young and real."
Caron's is undergoing big changes, according to designer-buyer Carlous Palmer. "We're phasing out some of the clothes, and making the look of the store a bit more sparse." Mr. Palmer will keep his own designs simple and uncomplicated, "without zippers and buttons -- just throw them on and go," fashioned largely from Italian fabrics in muted colors. He wants to ensure that Caron's continues to accommodate the wide range of sizes that it presently does, and so "even though tight and short is in," he will focus on designing more versatile figure-forgiving styles, like big tops over leggings.
For spring, the Cross Keys boutique will offer lots of bright colors fuchsia, turquoise, orange, red -- in cotton, cotton interlock, linen and silk both washable and raw. The '60s influence will be felt in chemise and trapeze dresses as well as Pucci-type prints; and business looks will focus on "L.A. Law" kinds of suiting: sophisticated classics like oversized houndstooth jackets with gold buttons.
As for evening wear, Shantung silk jackets with soutache or pearl trim across shoulders, or around the neck or cuff, will be showing -- a versatile evening choice that can be worn over a straight skirt or as a dress jacket.