The days when women routinely changed their wardrobes each season are long gone. And,in these recessionary times, few consumers are willing or able to buy even head-to-toe outfits.
Designers, mindful of the bad economy, have responded with a spring season that emphasizes specific items rather than entire ensembles. The smart shopper this warm-weather season will do likewise.
That said, there are exceptions: dresses, a good value because they offer neck-to-knee dressing for one price tag, and pantsuits because the individual pieces are versatile enough to be worn with other items.
To help you update your spring wardrobe, we're suggesting five key pieces. And we're also telling you about five items that aren't really news this spring but have been around long enough to establish credibility. In other words, they aren't going away. So if you've been resisting these purchases for fear they'd pass quickly from the in to out lists,this might be the season to go ahead and buy them.
Five items to add to your wardrobe:
* A pantsuit -- For the most versatility, the jacket should be long and the trousers traditionally cut. The most current look has a man-styled feeling, often coming from the fabrics used -- lots of pinstripes and plaids. But also hot are long, fitted jackets paired with skinny, cropped pants.
* A long hemline -- It can be a skirt or a dress; it can be full and flowing or slim and sleek, depending on your personal style. But the hem should reach several inches below the kneecaps, even to mid-calf. Slim and sleek looks a bit newer, but you'll get more versatility with the fuller styles. Slender skirts call for heels; the favored style for spring features modified platform soles. With a full skirt, flats or sandals are the footwear of choice.
* A pleated skirt -- This one should probably stop just short of the knee, unless you want to combine your pleats with your longer hemline for two trends in one. The size of the pleat is up to you; designers offer everything from tiny crystal pleats to large box pleats. They look best with a long, slightly fitted, lapel-less jacket or a sweater set.
* Something in denim that isn't jeans -- It could be a bustier, a dress, a constructed blazer. But it isn't 501s, and it isn't a traditional jeans jacket. And it needn't be blue. Denim has grown up for spring '92.
* Gucci loafers (or one of the many cheaper imitations) -- You'll get the most wear from classic colors of brown, black or burgundy, but you'll be more up-to-date with a pair in a light spring color such as peach, pink, lavender or maize. Key detail: a gold bar of some kind across the toe (the real thing features a mock horse bit, but imitations may offer anything from a simple bar to peace symbols).
Five items to stop resisting:
* A lace dress for evening -- Lace has been the luxury fabric of choice for more than three years and shows no signs of going away. Short lengths look less fussy and are more versatile than long.
The best news: Many all-over lace slips -- found on the cheap in lingerie departments -- are substantial enough to double as short cocktail dresses.
* A motorcycle-style jacket -- The classic is in tough-guy, black leather, and can be found at vintage stores for $100 or so. But versions are available in butter-soft, pastel shades from various designers. You can also find them in cloth, even including denim and suede. Many are longer than traditional biker jackets, but the key is the styling -- zippers and some kind of waist-belt are a must.
* A short trench coat -- It's become the classic spring coat. For longevity, you can go with rubberized cotton. For elegance, you might choose rainproof silk or one of the new microfiber polyesters, which feel like silk but aren't as pricey or as unforgiving of spills.
* A big white shirt -- This item is so versatile it has become a fashion staple and is easily found across the price spectrum, from designer boutiques to mainstream stores to discount outlets. It looks great over leggings or jeans or a short skirt, but too sloppy over longer skirts.
* A catsuit -- Yes, they can make going to the bathroom an exercise for a contortionist, but catsuits are incredibly comfortable, and they make getting dressed in the morning a breeze.