(Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)
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Thursday, May 1, 2008

It is one of fashion's enduring mysteries: How do fashion folks manage to miraculously tap into the cultural zeitgeist, with designer after designer trotting the same trends down the runway, season after season? Is it a psychic thing? As in, "Ommmmmmmmmmmmmm. Think pink!"? Or do they convene in some smoke-filled, undisclosed location, only to emerge days later with a fashion playlist?

Whichever the case, they're not telling. But we remain suspicious. Check out this season's biggest clue: Florals! Everywhere! Is that a sign, or what?

Now normally, the thought of floral dresses brings to mind prim church ladies tsk-tsking at us during Sunday service. Garden party stuff. But this season's crop (pun fully intended) brings a little bit of funk to the mix.

Dries Van Noten did it best, serving up big bolts of floral madness, improvising like crazy, layering bold bloom over bloom, playing with patterns. Nothing really matches, nothing really is in sync, but out of chaos, comes harmony. Like jazz.

Of course, you don't have to go all out like Van Noten to partake of this season's biggest trend. At almost every price point, you'll find ecstatic explosions of petals and peonies marching across dresses, skirts, tunics and blouses. We like them best on dresses, like A Common Thread's exuberantly swingy tunic or Banana Republic's lush wrap dress, with painterly meditations that evoke images of pastel-soaked Monets or vibrant van Goghs. Nothing mysterious about these dresses -- no matter how enigmatic their origins may be.

-- Teresa Wiltz

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