08 February 2007

Too early to wear Spring prints

Even though every celebrity in attendance at one of these Bryant Park fashion shows seems more appropriately dressed for a vacay to Turks and Caicos (see Kelly Ripa at right at the DVF show last week), the reality here in DC is that it's cold. Really cold. Maybe not upper-Midwest cold, but I'll be honest, I haven't even seen one of my unlined or lightly-lined bras in more than two weeks.

On days when the high temperatures are still below freezing, the balance that once tipped 80-20 in favor of fashion, might now look a bit more like 60-40.

What does that mean? It means thicker materials, it means closed-toed shoes, it means choosing trousers over skirts, and skirts and opaque tights over dressy bermudas. By no means does function overtake fashion (not once you're in the office, anyway) but it does mean you have fewer wardrobe components with which to work when putting together ensembles in the morning.

What seems like an obvious concept - cold weather merits thicker clothing - was clearly lost on the young woman I stood next to in line at the ABP on 18th and L this afternoon.

Not only was she sans overcoat, hosiery-free, and hovering a little too closely to see what I was listening to on my iPod, but she also had only a thin white cotton skirt between her white legs and the wicked winter wind waiting for her outside.

After more than a few minutes of trying to ignore her clumsy neck-cranings and yogurt breath, I was thisclose to turning my head and snapping, "Yeah, that's right, 'A hard habit to break' by Chicago, and after that, it's 'All out of love' by Air Supply. I'm going through a breakup and find solace in '80s adult contemporary. That alright with you?" But before I got a chance, Margarita, on her tip-toes peeking out from behind the wall of baguette halves, called out the woman's name and handed her a double tuna and cheddar croissant with red onions and extra chipotle mayo.

It wasn't until she walked toward the register that I noticed her skirt was not only white and lightweight but it was littered with a warm weather flower print as well.

There's just no excuse for this kind of out-of-season dressing. I don't care how flagrantly unfashionable a person is - and she was, which is something I'm generously not even going to address here - even a child knows the difference between those items which are spring appropriate and those which are it-snowed-this-morning-and-will-probably-snow-again-tonight appropriate. Daisies, peonies, and sunflowers have their time and place (in a vase in someone else's house, as far as I'm concerned), but on your person in the middle of DC's coldest cold-spell in a decade, unfortunately, does not qualify.

If you're insistent on floral, there are ways to do it, but the line between looking fierce and like a middle schooler from Pennsylvania Dutch country is fine and best avoided by those who don't think they know what they're doing.

The black and white Gisela tie-back dress by Maple pictured top left ($168 at anthropologie.com) is lightweight and low cut but not completely out of the running during a winter morning what-should-I-wear showdown. If paired with this beautiful poppy red turtleneck ($78 at anthropologie.com), a pair of opaque/patterned black tights and a pair of suede pumps (the heavier fabric will balance out the delicacy of the chiffon), you've just created a really fashion-forward, cold-weather-appropriate look.

The black-based, white and yellow-accented floral wrapdress from Diane von Furstenberg pictured above left($285 at shopbop.com), worn in tandem with a long-sleeved black turtleneck, black opaque/patterned tights and a pair of almond-toed stiletto boots like these Via Spigas ($239.95 at zappos.com) is another cute way to transition a traditionally warm-weather dress for winter use.

The most important rule to adhere to when picking out a floral pattern for year-round use is to make sure the pattern and/or base color isn't prohibitively summery. Anything pastel or white-dominant is a definite no-go, as well as anything too bright and busy. Late fall and winter are the times to opt for cranberry over cherry, mustard over lemon, wine over fuchsia, and pumpkin over melon. When selecting prints, whether emblazoned on a top, a skirt, a dress, or a jacket, I try to look for pieces anchored in black, brown or ivory. A piece that is strongly associated with one of these three assures much more inter-seasonal and intra-seasonal use than a piece rooted in another base color.

If this woman absolutely loved this skirt, she shouldn't have disrespected it by wearing it in a season for which it clearly was not intended. Like the goal skirt and the 3-to-4 inch high heel upgrade, waiting to debut a beloved item until you're ready - or in this case, until the weather is ready- is the only way to maximize the utility in your personal relationships with your clothes.

And sometimes, those are the most important and reliable relationships in your life.

Nourish them accordingly.

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