Remember when women were ashamed to wear the same outfit twice and each season called for a new wardrobe? No longer. Today, women are proud of their ability to choose quality fashions that will last a number of years and can be updated with a new blouse or a stylish scarf.
Women are demanding flexible, long-lasting styles that can keep pace with their busy lifestyles.
"Women's priorities have changed in the '90s," says Eileen Abato, a Baltimore-based retail fashion consultant. "We're investing in stocks, bonds, travel or whatever and looking more toward the future. We're not just spending our money on our backs anymore."
And designers, anxious to lure women into their markets, are responding by offering plenty of combinations and options. As a matter of fact, that's the key word for fashion this spring -- options -- as styles run the gamut from ankle-length, billowy chiffon skirts to short, body-skimming nothings.
But, with all these wonderful choices come decisions. Which length, which colors and fabrics, which silhouettes are best? For help with these decisions, we turned to some of Baltimore's most stylish women to hear their ideas about fashion, find out what they are choosing from this spring's myriad of fashion options, what they are planning to wear again from last year's wardrobe.
Meadow Lark Washington, a Baltimore psychotherapist, says she's looking for more quality this spring, less quantity. "I'm watching what I spend and I want durable styles that have more than one purpose," she says.
"Women are buying more pieces, rather than whole wardrobes this year, so they are looking for items with pizazz to add a twist to their classic clothes," says Sally Wolf, owner of the Sally Wolf specialty store in Pikesville. "I never thought I'd like the Lurex tanks and T-shirts, but they really sparkle underneath an ordinary suit."
Ms. Wolf also likes Equipment silk shirts, in hot solids or checks, and she plans on buying basic pieces in classic colors such as black, navy or olive green. "I love olive green," she says. "Sometimes I look like the Jolly Green Giant!"
While several big-name designers are touting longer lengths for spring, most of the women we spoke with prefer the look of shorter styles; and let's face it, most of us have just finished having all our skirts and dresses shortened. Several, however, will include a longer skirt or two for a flowing, cool look as the weather warms up.
"I'll probably add a long, see-through chiffon shirt this spring," says Lola Jones, owner of the hair salon Lola Inc., in Mount Washington. "It will still give the illusion of being short, which is a better proportion for me because I'm short."
Elaine Suls, dress buyer at John Sims, likes the look of the long, full shirtwaists that have once again returned to fashion. "This year, women can wear the long, almost ankle-length, shirtwaists with a wide belt and unbuttoned to show a pair of crisp, cotton shorts," she says. "Both Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren are showing this new style in soft fabrics and denim."
Ms. Washington says she will probably add a little length to her spring wardrobe with a sarong skirt from Donna Karan's Resort line. "The sarong gives the illusion of showing some leg while having some length," she says. "I'm 5 feet 4, so short is better, and my preference is shorter styles, but sometimes a longer skirt is cooler and more comfortable."
Vicki Mabrey, a reporter for WBAL-TV, also prefers short styles, but says, "I have a long, full, Roland Park-Ruxton-type skirt that I love and that I'll wear again this season."
Many of those interviewed mentioned updating old favorites for evening by adding a touch of lingerie, such as a camisole beneath a jacket.
"I think more women will be showing their bosoms this year, especially wearing bustiers with jackets," says Ms. Mabrey, who loves to shop in the back room at Loehmann's in Timonium, Benetton and Jones and Jones at Cross Keys, Macy's and vintage clothing stores. "I wish I could wear something daring like that, but I must have tried on 30 bustiers and couldn't bring myself to buy one."
Many women share Ms. Mabrey's hesitancy, so don't look for extreme lingerie touches this spring. "I don't think we'll see the Madonna-type bustier and girdle look," says Ms. Abato.
But, Ms. Mabrey's tall, slim looks are perfect for the black lace catsuit she plans to wear with a sheer ballet skirt to her "big, blowout" birthday party in April. "I'm 36 and I don't worry about people knowing my age, because I just love my birthday party every year."
For special evenings out, Ms. Suls is going to add a fitted silk dinner dress that she can wear with a long, fingertip jacket in a bright yellow or fuchsia.
Ms. Washington has bought a simple Isaac Mizrahi dinner dress in yellow linen and a white cotton shirt with a cutout back for festive occasions. For casual dinners, she says she may wear a short, gingham Mizrahi dress with a set-in waist and a full skirt for a cool '50s look.