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Prints Charming

By Jennifer Barger
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, March 1, 2000


    spring slacks It's the season to spring for prints. Click to see more sprightly patterns. Craig Cola/WPNI
In recent seasons, the fashion world has seemed stuck in neutrals and hooked on classic colors. But this spring, top designers like Gucci's Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger are trafficking in prints. Think both swinging '60s (Yellow Submarine-esque polka dots, faux Pucci prints) and rocking '80s (bright colors a la Pat Benatar, animal patterns). How to wear the new swirls, dots, paisleys and fake zebra patterns? Fashionistas may be brave enough to mix prints; more conservative types might add a fab pair of leopard mules to a solid-hued outfit. Men can incorporate Tommy Bahama's Hawaiian print shirts into a casual 9-to-5 wardrobe. Even bedsheets and bags sport Indian florals, op-art dots and retro-looking amoebas.

Women's designers offer multiple ways to put your frame in print. Hunt those pretend animal skins in the Brass Plum and Savvy departments at Nordstrom, where catches include a leopard-look cotton sheath ($34) or a knee-length snakeskin-patterned skirt ($140) that could work with a simple black blazer. In the shoe department, find Naked Feet's orange, gold and purple sari fabric wedges ($98) and Bebe's slingbacks in a tropical floral that would make Carmen Miranda swoon. Menswear in stock includes Tommy Bahama's comfy silk tropical print shirts in flower, tree or pineapple patterns and slide-on, orchid-print canvas deck shoes.

Groovy girls should also check out Neiman Marcus, where hot sellers range from Dolce & Gabbana's red gingham capri pants to Moschino's raincoat covered with neon-hued daisies. Other lively stock: a ladylike red floral print sheath from Rickie Freeman for Teri Jon ($195) and Laundry/Shelly Segal's stretchy gray python-print pants (for sinuous body types only). Though some folks find Harold's at Tysons Galleria a tad staid, its early spring dresses and skirts boast trendy prints with a slightly conservative Beltway chic. In other words, you'll be the hippest chick in McLean, not Milan. Look for black cotton capri pants trimmed in zebra print ($98), a red paisley skirt in silk ($120) and black cocktail dresses scattered with hot-pink tulips. Half-calf totes wear leopard or giraffe spots. Harold's men's department stocks a long-sleeved gingham sport shirt ($69.50) and an array of frat-boy plaids.

Other finds on recent mall crawl: aqua or pink paisley cotton slip dresses and skirts at Nicole Miller, purple and green "Pucci" patterned halters ($54) at Sisley and red-rose-festooned raincoats at Betsy Fisher.

Housewares sources also have prints sense. At Bloomingdale's, Tommy Hilfiger's flowery saffron and indigo-colored Cider Mill sheets and comforters smack of colonial India, while Ralph Lauren's Renaissance collection blends tapestry patterns and leopard prints. Across the street from White Flint Mall in Rockville, Anthropologie carries ethnic-influenced goods: multi-colored "Hothouse" quilts sprinkled with golden flower petals and leaves ($140 king), vintagey, ruffled rose-print tablecloths ($58) and pillows covered in Indian sari silk.

Since many of these wild fashions were inspired by previous decades, vintage shops are also a good source for prints charming. Find retro patterns at Polly Sue's Vintage in Takoma Park in its shagadelic basement of 1960s and 1970s attire, and at Twig Thrift in Old Town Alexandria, where a ponderously large collection of Hawaiian shirts keeps company with 1950s frocks. On the Web, Melinamade.com sells handbags, pillows and beanbag chairs made of reproduction 1950s Barkcloth – that nubby cotton Grandma sewed into curtains and bedspreads. Faves: the Calderesque "Mobility" print in white with primary dots and squiggles or the gray and pastel Atomicburst Charcoal, which, when shaped into a spiffy tote bag, looks like Kate Spade met Judy Jetson. After all, with prints, what comes around goes around. Keep this season's paisley in your closet, and it may live to see another season in this millennium.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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