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All about Spring 2004

Color, dresses and prints

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Tule hpurple floral dress

A purple floral dress from Tuleh.

Cynthia Nellis

Don't be fooled: spring fashion is always about color, dresses and floral prints.

But this spring, designers took those warm-weather standbys to the extreme and added a few more feminine touches you'll want to add to your wardrobe.

Color

From grassy greens to cotton candy pink and warm coral, color takes center stage this season not as an accent piece but as the theme.

Any color will do, as long as it's a clear, bright hue and it flatters you. Pink and blue are two of the easiest colors to wear, so that's a great starting place.

Do: Mix color with bright white (a la Gucci) or with like-minded prints (Oscar de la Renta).

Don't: The only thing you don't want to mix brights with this season is black, which looks matronly and dated (as in the black pantsuit with pink shirt).

Prints

From bold florals to strong graphics, prints hold their own in a sea of bright color.

Hothouse flowers (Versace) look especially great for warm weather.

Even black and white makes a statement with graphic prints, houndstooth and florals.

Do: Scale prints to your frame: larger prints can overwhelm petites, ditsy prints look lost on full-figured women.

Don't: Don't rely on home interior-inspired prints of seasons past (toile, wallpaper prints). They are best suited for chairs and walls now, not fashion.

Dresses

  • Goddess touches -- draping, one-shoulder, rouching -- are all the rage with Hollywood this season. Borrow a bit from the celebrity style book and find a frock with these special features.
  • The '50s are a huge influence on the dress category right now, as full-skirted, knee-length dresses look right for everything from tea parties to cocktail hour.
  • The '20s are important, too, with drop-waist dresses and sparkle (Marc Jacobs) that add a modern flapper edge.

Do:Wear full-skirted, knee-length dresses with high heels (don't be afraid to try something fun like green sandals with a pink dress).

Don't: Avoid overindulging in head-to-toe dress trends; try the trends listed above in small doses. Remember that even Nicole Kidman went wrong with her Golden Globes 1920s gold and white flapper girl look.

More trends

  • Lingerie-inspired looks (lace trims, slip touches, bra straps, corsets.
  • Flowers, frills, bows and ribbons.
  • Layers: lighweight, v-neck sweaters over collared shirts, multiple T-shirts.
  • Trench coats
  • Skins and metallics: Brightly colored faux croc handbags and silver strappy sandals.

Still chic

  • Warm-weather whites and neutrals
  • Cropped pants
  • Minis
  • Athletic looks

Make the trends work for you

Fuller figures: Stick with darker-ground prints (like a mult-colored floral on a blue background), and wearing white on your slimmest parts (a trim-hipped, busty woman would be flattered in a hot pink top with white capris). Head-to-toe similar colors schemes are flattering (a grass green shirt with green print pants) instead of contrasting colors (you can add punchy contrast with accessories -- a yellow bag or metallic sandals).

Petite women: Watch the proportion on knee-length dresses and skirts and keep fullness to a minimum unless you are Sarah Jessica Parker slim. High-heeled sandals add miles to your legs if you can stand them; otherwise opt for a kitten heel or other slender heel. Head-to-toe prints are usually overwheming on smaller women, so try mixing solids (especially white) with print pieces.

Mature women: Keep flattering colors close to the face for maximum flattery. Update your wardrobe with great classics that look trendy, such as trenches or knit tops with light feminine touches.

Career looks: Save the floatiest looks for off-duty time and invest in more structured separates for the office. Chanel-type jackets are always great for spring. You can still wear color to the office, but tone it down (a soft pink houndstooth jacket instead of a hot pink floral, perhaps). Neutrals mixed with white, as well as black and white, are sophisticated work-ready looks. Layered, lightweight sweaters over shirts (a carryover from fall) with a knee-length skirt look great this season, too.)

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