White out

This season's 'It' color is white, in all its shades: ivory and snowdrop, cloud and marshmallow, lily and frost.

March 17, 2002|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,Sun Staff

Season after season, when fashion designers reveal their visions for the moment, there often is some synchronicity, a common thread that wends its way through more than one collection.

Because, invariably, the style oracles will look at the world around them, the mood of American shoppers, and their creativity and guesswork will lead them to some unified conclusion about a feel, a look, a symbol that the public will want.

This spring, the "It" in fashion is the color white.

This most pristine and simple of fashion statements is dominant in collections from classy Calvin Klein to girly Anna Sui, from sleek Marc Jacobs to the ever-elegant Oscar de la Renta. And fashion observers are saying that the color has never felt more right.

"White is the color of the season for spring," said Sasha Charnin Morrison, fashion director at Allure magazine. "It just feels like, as a result of the atrocities of September 11, everybody felt like going with white because it was a very angelic, soothing, ethereal type of color.

"It just makes everything feel a little better," she added, "like we're on some kind of road to recovery."

This spring's white comes in many forms. There are the crisp blouses from Carolina Herrera with slim bodices and long, flowy sleeves, the wispy baby-doll dresses from Anna Sui and, from Oscar de la Renta, a series of stunning white lace gowns that convey both virginal innocence and sex appeal with ruffles and slits that tease the beholder.

Marc Jacobs added the hue to both his signature collection and the Louis Vuitton line, which featured white in a sweet peasant dress with a high empire waist and in a slim-cut coat with tiny embroidered flowers. And Calvin Klein and Donna Karan showed hardy white coats and jackets that would be well-suited for many a city setting.

"The thing about the new white is, it's not just one shade of white," said Shawny Burns, spokeswoman for Saks Fifth Avenue. "It's everything from ivory to a bright white-white that has the bluish tint in it, so there's a lot of variety there."

And these updated white ensembles tend to come with tiny details that provide a modern flair.

"All the texture," Burns added, "that's what's new this year. You have embroidery, beading, a lot of lacy knits and crochets. Eyelets are hot, and all of that detail is what makes the white look newer than white a year ago."

Part of the appeal of white is that it's soothing, feminine and simple.

"It's all about femininity this spring season, with a softness and seduction," said designer Carmen Marc Valvo, who drew from Spanish and Victorian styles for his collection. "It's minimal in the sense that it's not about over-ornamentation. It's more fragile, a cleaner, more gentle aesthetic."

As glorious as white is visually, there remains one glaring disadvantage to stepping out of the house in it.

"I live and breathe in New York City -- I don't find it very functional wear," said Tom Julian, a fashion and retail trend analyst for Fallon Worldwide.

"White does represent a clean, fresh feeling, and it looks nice and freshly laundered," he added. "But if you wear white and you get into a taxi or you go in the subway, you're going to come out filthy."

Dressing up your whites

To dramatize your white, go with accessories in solid colors that provide contrast. Here are our picks:

* Black

Black immediately adds oomph to a white ensemble. "It's crisp," said Mary Jimenez, spokeswoman for Eluxury.com. "When accessorizing a white outfit, black is always the best." Try a black watch, shoes and purse to accentuate your whites. Or, even better, Celine has a black handbag with matching shoes that offer a twist -- sharp white contrast stitching.

* Red

Red accessories not only spice up a clean white outfit, they also offer a touch of spring. Michael Kors this season offers a cute red patent clutch purse that's not only snazzy, it's also fairly inexpensive for designer fare -- $65.

* Khaki

For a more unique color combination, try pairing white with tan or khaki. "It's hipper than black and white or red and white because it's a little more unusual," Jimenez said. Try khaki shoes or belts.

Other looks of the season

* The nouveau peasant

Butterflies, flowers, soft paisley prints and folksy skirts and dresses are front and center this season, as designers from Marc Jacobs to Stella McCartney encouraged women to get in touch with their inner hippie this spring. "The silhouette's very relaxed," said Sasha Charnin Morrison of Allure magazine. "Everything's kind of schlumpy and peaceful, but in a refined way. Everything's smocked and tiered, and there's a lot of fringe."

* The flowy fit

The new, soft silhouette comes in some extremes, from dresses that resemble comfy caftans to drawstring pants in gentle fabrics that can look like pajamas. "After everything we've been through, who doesn't want to walk around in their pajamas," Charnin Morrison said. "But these are very glamorous. It's like an updated man's pajama for women."

* Ruffles

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