When people say that country is back, don't assume they're just talking music.
The growing popularity of a twing here and a twang there is only half the story. Country-and-western-inspired fashion is the other half.
At the fall and spring womenswear shows on both continents, designers responded with western-inspired apparel ranging from pastel-strong Southwestern chic to bronco-bustin' duds sure to raise a ruckus.
In New York City, Adrienne Vittadini showed homespun gingham and picnic-check dresses for this spring. In his summer collection, French designer Azzedine Alaia showed dresses with scalloping and white-eyelet trim, for a casual yet elegant look.
But, as is often the case, what's on the runway isn't on the backs real people. Country and western music fans have two-stepped right past the designers. They are going for a look that is less contrived and "New Yorky," as one woman said recently at a local country-western bar.
"I get things from all over," says belt designer and western dance enthusiast Paula K. Miller. "You kind of put it all together yourself. And now it's in all the magazines, so you can get other little ideas -- like tying the shirt at the waist or adding petticoats."
Some country/western fans are choosing lightweight blouses from The Gap and Guess stores. They knot them at the waist and wear them with denim shorts and cowboy boots.
Nearly every store, including The Limited, Body Shop and Lerner's, of fer breezy cotton dresses with the same feel as Alaia's.
Some women add crinoline petticoats underneath and wear them with strappy heels or "granny" lace-up boots.
Those who want a more authentic western look can head for stores that specialize in boots, belts and such.