Summer styles have a vintage flavor

July 01, 1992|By Trish Donnally | Trish Donnally,San Francisco Chronicle

This summer's strongest trends -- long, sweeping 1940s-style dresses and vests, and head-to-toe white -- have an ease that fits the season where simplicity is key. Animal-print shades give a glamorous finish, and soft hats provide a gentle touch of romance.

The strong '40s flavor surfacing in summer fashions will be strengthened by fall. Meanwhile, enjoy ankle-length silk or rayon dresses that skim rather than squeeze the body. Styles this summer feature short or cap sleeves, or in the case of sun dresses, pretty crisscross straps in the back. Patterns from big palm prints to demure dots have a vintage feel. Betsey Johnson is among designers re-creating long '40-ish dresses.

In summer, when you don't want to fret about what to wear, a dress provides the solution in one step. And there's beauty in the sight of a woman walking on city streets in a long, flowing pleated skirt, or languishing on a veranda in a long, loose dress lifted ever-so-gently by a soft summer breeze.

Not only does a long dress look graceful, but if it's really long and you're in the right situation, you can skip the pantyhose and breath easier.

The summer palette is filled with quiet, sun-washed colors, but nothing is as prevalent as white.

White looks right this year for jeans, ruffle or tie-front cotton shirts, skinny ribbed tank tops, long pleated linen skirts, flowing dresses or mannish white pantsuits or short suits.

Women who hate to part with their microminis might want to switch to shorts, which is what many young women in Paris are wearing with jackets. Though almost every length is in these days, the one that looks dated is the Band-Aid short and tight skirt.

If you select a tailored white suit, soften it with feminine or whimsical pins -- cameos, hearts or harps -- gutsy pearl chokers, charm bracelets or a delicate lace scarf.

Though it may seem like the wrong season, vests are in for summer. In San Francisco, with its many microclimates, vests make sense. They can add a layer of warmth for foggy mornings. Vests can also give new life to the white shirt you already own, add panache to a simple white T-shirt, or be worn alone under a jacket.

The newest vest styles have a retro twist. Vintage prints are particularly popular. San Francisco designer Carole Antone, for instance, makes a romantic vest with postcards of kittens, children playing ring around the rosy, baskets of flowers and scampering dogs. It's in warm tones of cocoa brown, mauve, celadon and mustard.

If ever you wanted an excuse to don a romantic hat, summer is your answer.

Gorgeous hats, soft chapeaux, styles trimmed with les fleurs all do double-duty. Besides giving you a head-turning look, they will also protect your skin from the harsh summer sun.

And since summer is the natural time to update your shades, go for the latest: wild animal-inspired specs.

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