Fashion : A SPECIAL REPORT: SPRING INTO FALL : Spring Basics : What to Buy Now : Slender Shapes, Rich Colors Rule for Spring and Summer

Nothing looks quite so dreary on a spring day as a closet full of winter clothes. You open your wardrobe door wanting to see featherweight fabrics in flower-bright colors, and instead, there they are--the fuzzy sweaters that are too hot, the wool skirts that are too long, and all of them are black. It’s just too depressing.

Resurrecting last year’s summer clothes won’t help the situation much. Fashion has changed. Colors are richer and there are more choices, prints have virtually disappeared, jackets are fitted and longer, pants are very slim and skirts wrap around the body and fall short of the knee.

Even the accessories are a different proportion than they were last spring. Sunglasses are Jackie O-versize, earrings dangle to the shoulders or beyond. Hats have small crowns and enormous brims, or tall crowns and small rolled brims. Last year, belts rode high and wide above the waist. Now they are contoured and curved around the hips.

Footwear has gone through its own metamorphosis. Every shoe tries to be a sandal--the most popular pump has been carved to an open-toed sling-back.


With so many changes a wardrobe overhaul is a daunting prospect. The trick is to look for a few basic pieces that will carry you through spring and summer and, if you choose carefully, into the fall.

Color plays a pivotal role. Combinations of three or four colors are used within a single outfit. Most of the hues defy a one-word description. Gray-olive-green and yellow-orange lack snap, which is why designers have come up with a whole new vocabulary for colors. Analogies to spices, vegetables and woods are used quite frequently.

If you are a complete klutz when it comes to colors, pick one and use it from head-to-toe. It will put you one jump ahead. Claude Montana, Donna Karan and Leon Max showed monochromatic dressing for fall. (Montana chose Andy Warhol yellow, Karan went with anthracite coal and Max opted for mahogany.)

Build your new look on a mid-thigh-length fitted jacket with darts through the midriff to give it shape. They’re not as plentiful as the boxy cuts and because of the added workmanship they are likely to cost more. But the mileage you can get with one will help justify the expense.

At ABS, for example, the fitted jackets are running $5 to $25 more than blazers in the same fabric.

The fitted jacket works with the newest looking narrow pants and short skirts. The extra length also gives a degree of respectability to shorts, an item being pushed as summer office wear. Now, and certainly next fall, a fitted jacket will be the best thing to wear with a unitard.

Ankle-length, slim-fitting pants are one of the season’s most risky options. They look spectacular on women with great legs and a model’s stature. If this is not your body type, try a sarong skirt or a pair of knee-grazing walking shorts. They’re more forgiving.

Simple slip dresses can be found throughout most stores, from the junior department to the designer boutique. Their versatility under jackets for day, with sheer wraps at night and alone when the temperatures soar make them an appealing and economical addition to the spring shopping list. Buy two.


Accessories are the most inexpensive way to broaden your wardrobe. Multiple bangles and chain belts loaded with charms will turn a sarong skirt and bandeau-tied scarf ethnic. A slip dress worn with a pair of extravagantly long glittery earrings is instant evening wear.

Slip on a pair of those ‘60s movie star sunglasses. You’ll notice an immediate attitude adjustment. Not only do they make you look glamorous, they hide all those tiny lines around the eyes. It’s no wonder some women never gave them up. The key is making the new shapes and colors work is to keep the basic pieces--the jacket, skirts, pants or shorts clean-lined and color compatible. For longevity, look for clothes that will work with the must-have items for fall--unitards, blouses and jackets with hoods, and short, full, trench coats. Find one of those yellow-based organic colors and learn to love it.