Flower power: Shorts and Converse sneakers from Nordstrom; Denella floral… (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
Though the telltale blooms of spring aren't sprouting up along sidewalks and stoops quite yet, they're all over the shelves this season.
After a solid showing last spring and fall on the designer runways, florals have blown up big-time in mainstream fashion, said Olivia Ifergan, a stylist with Chicago-based women's wardrobe service Cake Style. "Now it's trickling down to [be] more mainstream," she said. "The Club Monacos, the Forever 21s … it's not just the high-end Gucci, Louis Vuitton that's showing it."
Mass market retailer J. Crew is a virtual garden this spring, with fresh flower prints on everything from pants to scarves to neckties. Its sibling store Madewell, which opens its first Chicago store at 935 N. Rush St. on April 3, is carrying romantic prints reminiscent of '90s Laura Ashley dresses as well as retro-inspired floral lace tops and shorts.
Independent boutiques are seeing the trend explode as well. "This year, we're seeing a lot more bigger and brighter and bolder florals," said Eva Anderson, who co-owns Wicker Park shop Le Dress with sister-in-law Robyn Anderson Baldenegro. "It's florals on steroids," she said. The store owners also recently launched their own made-in-Chicago line, Denella, which features a few tops and dresses in bright petal-laced fabrics.
Clothing manufacturers have pulled out all the stops when it comes to the kinds of florals they're featuring, from traditional rose-and-vine prints to digitally manipulated blossoms that trick the eye. "Some are really abstract, where they're kind of blurred together like a painted pattern and you can't really tell it's floral," said Ifergan. "There's so many different ones out there that everyone can find something that works for them."
HOW TO WEAR IT
For ladies, looking modern in especially feminine florals is all in the styling; with a girly shoe and polished hair, you can end up looking like a tween on Easter Sunday. To avoid too-precious territory, "maybe go a little messier on the hair and tougher with the shoe," Anderson said.
Simplicity is the best strategy when it comes to building an outfit around a loud floral piece. "If you're walking down the street and you have this bold floral print on, you're already going to be the center of attention," Anderson said. "You don't need a lot of extra attention with jewelry or bags."
If you're leery of more daring options like floral pants, pair them with neutrals such as a denim shirt or a plain white tee. "Floral is going to be the statement piece of your outfit. You don't need to compete with that," Ifergan said.
Guys, if you think this season's flower power is just for the ladies, forget it. In Austin, Texas, last month for South by Southwest, RedEye spotted plenty of dudes rocking streetwear with floral accents, from socks, sneakers and the bills of baseball caps to the occasional all-over floral on a tank or tee.
"I think they have their time and their place for an especially confident guy," said Michael Barkin, head of sales at Trunk Club, a Chicago-based men's clothing service. If bold blooms seem too out-there, look for small-scale florals that look more like a geometric pattern from far away, or try it in smaller doses on accessories. "Where [men] might incorporate them is through their accessories, either pocket squares or … ties," Barkin said. "They're small pieces where it might just be a hint of it."
>>FIND MORE FLORAL! Spot some awesome (or awesomely bad) florals while out shopping? Snap a pic, share it on Twitter or Instagram with the price, location and tag #floralfinds. We'll build a floral catalog to share with the masses!
>>PHOTOS: Floral fashion in action
4 more spring trends
BLACK AND WHITE
This is the easiest of spring trends to pull off without having to buy anything new. "A lot of people already have a lot of black and white—or a lot [of] black at least," Anderson said. "You can also introduce another color to lessen the impact." If you're willing to Invest in new black or white separates, they'll have serious staying power in your closet, Ifergan said. "[I like] the versatility of how it's going to work forever, but you can still look really on-trend now."
Pantone's Color of the Year for 2013 is popping up all over, from nail polish to sunglasses to clothing for both men and women. "Emerald green definitely was seen on the runways," Ifergan said. "I think people are doing it in different varieties. Some's a bit brighter; some's a bit deeper." Anderson expects emerald to be even bigger this fall. "It's a good one to buy now and wear later, for sure," she said.
This classic pattern never really goes out of style, but it's especially popular now. "On the runways, I think I saw an outfit with a striped pant, a striped blazer and a striped top … obviously that's not something you're going to wear in real life," said Ifergan. "My advice is, for wearability, pick one—striped pants or a striped top—because I think [otherwise] that can overwhelm a person." Stripes that combine white with red, navy or emerald transition especially well into summer because "they definitely have that boating, preppy-type feel to them," she said.
In black, white, pastels and brights, lace is all over women's clothing this season, ranging from delicate Chantilly lace to chunkier fabrics such as eyelet. Anderson warns to keep an eye on quality, because lace, especially in colors, easily can look cheap.
>>PHOTOS: See how spring's top five trends are popping up at local stores.
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