The New Romantics

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Every year, as spring collections arrive in stores and online, a few reliable trends surface: floral prints, daringly short hemlines and bright, splashy hues. But 2009 brings with it a distinctly pared-down femininity -- fashion forecasters seem to agree that excessive frills and sugary-sweet girliness are a thing of the past.

Designers such as Roksanda Ilincic, Derek Lam and Erdem Moralioglu have crafted lavish ensembles in silk and satin, using haphazardly placed ruffles, abstract flowers and frothy tiers of raw-edged fabrics to appeal to a new era of female consumers: those seeking lyrical, light pieces that allow the wearer to float into a room rather than burst into it. Pieces that whisper, rather than shout. These shoppers still want to have fun, only they're more apt to take inspiration from Coco Chanel than Cyndi Lauper. For proof, look to Anthropologie's chiffon-flower headband or J. Crew's embellished cotton tops, which achieve a sort of rough-hewn femininity without seeming overwrought.

"The customer likes the vintage soft-edge look," says Nancy Pearlstein, owner of Georgetown boutique Relish, via e-mail. "Maybe not as tight and 'out there' as in the past, but definitely still the aura of provocativeness."

The palette is mostly nudes and neutrals, with flourishes of beige, blush and burnished metallics. The silhouette is graceful and gentle, yet entirely self-assured. Exhibit A: Max Azria's silk skirt, where artful draping creates sleek, sculptural lines. For exhibits B and C, look no further than Brunello Cucinelli's luxe silk dress, which skims the knees with tiers of sheer ruffles, and design duo Erickson Beamon's rosebud earrings, finished with an antique luster and delicate gold chains.

And if you start to long for a peony print or a swath of splashy magenta, well, there's always next spring.

-- Holly E. Thomas

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