Below The Belt

Vogue editors describe spring as “not a season of radical reinvention,” but that must be O.K., as retail business around town is definitely on the rise.

In fact, not much has been said about the trends of the season, beyond COLOR. For me, the news of this season and also fresh from the Fall Runways, resides from the waist down, it’s all happening below the belt! I am hearing from buyers that consumers are already loving the wide leg pants, flared leg jeans and longer skirts arriving in stores.

Wide-legged pants

The first of these trends is the return of wide leg pants. Skinnies, particularly in denim, are not gone, nor is it considered un-chic or less-knowing if you continue to wear them. However, wide leg trousers, with a softened menswear influence, look new, fresh and Katharine Hepburn elegant.

Trousers with an extra leg width that starts softly at the waist and flows to the ankles are best in neutral shades of white, black, khaki or my new fave, navy. Pair them with a short, lady-like jacket (another seasonal trend) and the pantsuit craze that started last fall is taken to a new dimension and proportion.

“After squeezing into skinnies for the past two years, I was thrilled to see the return of a relaxed and sophisticated silhouette. My uniform this spring will be silk palazzos paired with a tailored blazer a la Hepburn or Dietrich,” says Tootsies denim and contemporary buyer Jennifer Cunningham, reporting that these looks are already “flowing” out the doors of their new store.

In denim, this wider leg is back with us this season, certainly in a trouser, best in dark denim.

However, the ’70s influence that was so prevalent in many of the collections is personified in the bell-bottom, flare leg or boot cut styles that are available from every jean line. The image of Cher at her finest should be popping in your heads about now.

In shopping the floors of the new Tootsies with Cunningham, she is quick to point out the style that is the most flattering to most female shapes is slim through the thighs with all of the flare action happening from the knees to the ankle. She is particularly excited about British denim house Made in Heaven, whose Marrakesh flare is the one to have.

This is a huge shift from the skinny, tucked-in-your-boots look that we have been living comfy in for the last several seasons. At a recent trend presentation that I held at Tootsies, I had no problem convincing the ladies to try on these new shapes. They tried and they bought, as the flattering look to most body types is apparent as soon as you try them on. However, it should be noted that this new shape changes everything for the wearer, from the tops she chooses to the shoe she wears.

Skirts are getting longer

Also for spring, everything is getting longer. Maxi skirts are back in plentiful versions and consumers are loving them.

The more popular styles here are soft, slim, close-to-the body shapes that stray to the ankles. Knowing that these ankle length skirts are becoming all the rage, look for dresses to follow suit in the always-popular ankle-length maxi dresses (a name I prefer but synonymous with “patio dresses” from days past).

Midi-styles are here also but must be tried on for reassurance. The calf is not usually a favorite feature for most women. Try it on, see where it hits and make your decision accordingly. It’s not a look for everybody, particularly in the spring when you don’t have the security of boots to fill in the gap. You may want to stay closer to the knee-grazer length for spring/summer, adorable with flat sandals.

Another length-story is the crop pants It’s long been a local favorite in our town as just those few inches above the ankles translate into coolness in the depths of Houston summertime heat.

The gaucho is back. The wider leg crop has come back to the forefront, and if that is not a fave of yours, try the slimmer “skimmer” crop; it’s already selling in both denim and khaki. (White or khaki is the best way to go here.)

Shorts continue to grow in importance and are no longer only a weekend wear item. City shorts, a little longer and oftentimes cuffed, can be worn dressed up for dinner and, depending on where you collect your paycheck, for work as well.

How to wear the longer look

The new trends on the bottom change just about everything about what works best at the top. If from the waist down is full, then the top needs to be fitted, sexy and close to the body…think skinny tops and short cropped jackets.

Heels or wedges — a must to lengthen the leg — look best with the wide and flared leg pants and jeans.

Alterations are back in the “must-do” department, as careful attention to tapering and hemming are now a necessity after being spoiled by the scrunched-at-the-ankle look of the slim leg jean. (Remember to always ask for the original hem when altering.)

Certain lines, like James Jeans and Citizens of Humanity, have a slightly shorter inseam. For the little people out there, like me, your best fit will be flare leg crops, that — you guessed it —fit perfectly at the ankle. (Thanks, to Jennifer for pointing that out to me, as I was stressing over hemming my flare away in these new jeans. It works!)

With long, lean, to-the-ankle skirts and dresses, add long layered necklaces that are so in vogue this season. Depending on your height and what makes you feel most comfortable, a flat sandal completes a great outfit.

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