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by Judith Rasband, Conselle Institute of Image Management

Up on the trends and fashion news?
Here are the latest from which to choose.
Don't be a fashion victim. Empower yourself!
Decide what to avoid, adapt, or adopt before feeling pressured to buy.

There's not much new out there this season. Let me say at the outset, if you're looking for  a new look, look to dusters and tiered-top dresses. That's it this spring. Oh, there's a lot of talk about the "new sophistication." but that's nothing more than an effort to make mistakes in visual design or garment constriction seem the "in" thing to wear.

They're certainly not talking about useful, practical, or basics. It's all about "pretentious eccentricity," wearing the clothes slightly "off-kilter." "Clumsy couture" some call it. "Tacky chic" and sometimes "athletic chic." Truth is , the pieces in the outfit just don't match, aren't finished, or are finished poorly. For example, the designer might give the skirt a new spin by draping it with a sash, then deliberately mis-align the hem. The print and plaids may not match, or the seams are frayed, In the interest of speed and efficiency, they're not looking for pretty. And pretty it's not, as with the "one sleeve T-shirt dress -- a dumb-looking dress with only one sleeve.

Beyond dusters and tiered-top dresses, there's nothing unique about the style lines and shape this season. Styles are simple, with slip dresses still out there, along with tank styles. Sheath dresses are shown in every collection and store, but suited only to the slim. There are also, thank goodness, lots of fluid A-line and flared dresses that skim beautifully over most figures. Many are in longer lengths and feature a delicate scoop neckline, but many others sport a shirtwaist bodice -- take your choice according to your personality and the occasion where you plan to wear the dress.

High-waisted float dresses with scoop or V-necklines are another option that is in every store and catalog -- patterns too. Some feature a windowpane tucked front that's a little different and fresh to look at. Every woman can use one or two or a few float dresses It's just the fashion gurus who aren't talking about them. Too practical.

Spring dresses come in pretty, beautiful, and gorgeous floral print fabrics, including sueded rayon and georgette. They also come in homespun looking burlaps, brushed cottons, pre-washed textured linen, even pre-washed corduroy -- what a range of looks and weights. Separates made of these latter fabrics look distressed, unfinished, and sometimes just plain crude. So, at least we have a choice.

In contrast to the simple styles, decoration has returned and fabric manipulation has gone wild. Slip dresses are made of lace and beaded or bejeweled on the body or the straps. Some have buckled leather straps. Picture that. Sleeveless sheath dresses are gently sprinkled or covered neck to hem in sparkles, bringing dazzle to day and evening clothes. Designers have taken a shine to sheen, with fabrics that gleam, glaze, gloss, and glitter, You'll see and be inspired by silk shantung, doupioni silk, and tafetta, And they'll be paired with matte-finish featherweight tweed, superfine cashmere, silk jersey, and stretch jersey.

Fabric as art is the fashion story of the season -- if only we can get people  out of their t-shirts and sweats. Fabric manipulations include draping, folding,crushing, pleating, shirring, ruffling, ruching, smocking, and fringing, Piecework, cutwork and jeweled embroideries are out there too, as part of the renewed ornamentation. Fabric is hand-painted, then rumpled, crumpled, wadded, knotted, wrinkled, and otherwise distressed. That "purposeful imperfection" discussed above, includes raveling at the neckline and/or the hemline. It's a look. But take a look at the wondrous variety of crocheted clothes available -- camisoles, shells, shirts, tunics, skirts, and dresses all at pretty price for wearable  art.

White shirts, white lace shirts and nighties are touted as must-have items this spring. And who can't use another white shirt. Beyond that, every color is everywhere -- light or dark, bright or muted, they're all around us , in ready-to-wear and in fashion fabrics to sew. Animal prints, especially leopard, are still popular, have improved in design quality, and have  tricked down to include "the girls in the neighborhood." Try it if you like.

If you can't find the fabric or the clothes you'd like to see, order copies of Conselle's Fashion Fabric Resource List of fabric clubs and specialty stores around the country who want to cater to you; and the Fashion Catalog Directory, with it's key to size, price, occasion, and personal style. If you want it, it's out there. You just have to know where to look. Call Conselle.

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