The stress-free dress


After the sportswear '70s and the power-look-driven '80s, the no-stress '90s are putting a new spin on one of fashion's oldest concepts: the dress.

It's everywhere, in every shape at every price. The news is in comfortably clean-lined sheaths, A-line shifts, trapeze styles, coatdresses and fit-and-flare looks. Generally skimming somewhere over the knee, these dresses can pop with bright Mondrian-esque color-blocks and floral and geometric prints or glow in soft pastels and summer whites. The key message: Keep it simple.

"The dress is the main item for spring. It's what's new and we feel it's very fresh and modern-looking. The colors are great and I think people want something that's different," says Shawny Burns, fashion director for Bloomingdales branch stores.

For many women weaned on sportswear, a dress is "something different." One of the oldest words in the fashion lexicon, it gets a dusting and an airing every few years. Apparently, the time is right -- again. It may be that the simplicity and ease of the dress are in tune with the pared-down approach of the era. Or it could be that the appeal of one-piece dressing, already evident in bodysuits, is rubbing off on the dress category.

Dresses may not have the mix-and-match flexibility of sportswear, but they also don't have its complexity. That's part of their appeal. Put one on and you're, well, dressed. It doesn't get any easier or faster than that.

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