Be it oversize stripes or all-in-one brights, this is the new season.

There is a sea change in fashion for spring 2012 and not just by way of the underwater themes that were captured in the pearls at Chanel, sharks’ teeth at Givenchy, and crustaceous corals at Alexander McQueen.

ALL THAT’S NEW AND FIT TO PRINT: Flowers — rich, abundant, but with an unearthly hue — are blown up, shrunk, overlaid, and Photoshopped until they look like nothing that nature intended. Worlds within worlds of scenic pattern, like Dries Van Noten’s twinkly panorama of a night cityscape, transform the entire notion of print. In touch with nature are Jil Sander’s arabesque paisley, Balenciaga’s marquetry, and Reed Krakoff’s aviary of birds. Out of this world: the hyperreality of Mary Katrantzou’s digital flower beds. VERDICT: Don’t back off print. Embrace it.

COLOR BLOCKS: If Proenza Schouler had shag carpet as a runway, can 1970s shades like orange, brown, and avocado be far behind? Summer’s strong colors are tropical-lagoon turquoise and seashore coral. Cool hot-weather hues are fondant pastels — not so much the pistachio and strawberry of soft-center Ladurée macarons but more the hard but sweet Miami beachfront pastels, like pale 1930s shagreen, shimmering silver, and metallic rose gold. SAFE OPTION: Black and white. GO FOR IT: Nile green.

PLETHORA OF PLEATS: If you don’t have a small waist from which a sun-ray skirt can fan out, you may be out of luck. The pleated skirt, softened by Roberto Cavalli with chiffon inserts inside each fold, is essential. Think pleats are heavy on the hips? Try a long jacket or Chloé’s swing-along dresses pleated from neck to knees. A little goes a long way. The wise dresser sees pleats as a single focus and keeps everything else dead simple. VERDICT: Pleats, please!

INTO THE BLUE: It could be the fish-scale fabrics at Givenchy, Versace’s starfish and seahorse patterns, or Giorgio Armani’s watery hues and pearly sheen. Anything from the seabed works as embellishment, especially pearls and coral. Dream works: Chanel’s pearls replacing chains on the classic jacket and Alexander McQueen’s coral-reef dresses. Real world: a mother-of-pearl brooch on a lapel, a shark’s-tooth pendant dangling from a bag handle. ODD EXTRA FOR AN UNDER-THE-SEA SUMMER: Mesh socks.

SOFT SCULPTURE: Tailoring is drawn with a square: big shoulders, boxy jackets, straight three-quarter coats. A different version is created with a compass to produce rounded backs or molded neoprene. Tactile materials or mixes of different fabrics give variety to otherwise-plain shapes. LEARNING CURVE: Peplums at the waist to round off taut tops or slender dresses. BEST BET: The geometric jacket.

OLYMPIC GAMES: Sport meets dressy as in mesh inserts (Stella McCartney) or full mesh pieces (Alexander Wang). The fashion trick: Layer netted separates over simple solid pieces to create athletic streamlining instead of peekaboo sensuality. More dynamic effects appear in sleek, body-con neoprene pants and dresses. THINK: Piping, netting, nylon.

RUSTIC VERSUS TECHNO: The look is homespun with fuzzy, touchable fabrics and patchwork. Out of Africa: “rustic modernism” from Michael Kors, Burberry’s exotic handcrafted effects on traditional English fabrics, and burnt-umber colors and shades of rain-forest green. Hairy knits and digitally printed tribal patterns make for 21st-century hippie deluxe. HOT TIP: More spring than summer.

THE LACE RACE: Spanning all categories of embellishment comes lace but used in a modern, minimalist way and never as girly decoration. Layers of lace create a crusty surface. Inserts weave patterns into any kind of fabric. Lace is as likely to be on a bag as on a collar. (In the spirit of lace, see also Jason Wu’s “electrified” embroideries.) HOT TIP: Think cool, not cute.

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES IN FOOTWEAR: Shock! Horror! Flat sandals were spotted at Valentino. Pumps with shapely heels are an alternative to sky’s-the-limit stilettos and chunky platforms. Wicker work is everywhere, with smaller mesh for shoe uppers. Masculine versus feminine touches mean mesh boots from Jil Sander facing off against flower-pattern boots at Miu Miu. Other ideas: animal patterns and shell decoration. WHAT’S OLD IS NEW: Make a quick getaway in Prada’s retro-car-fin shoes.

Sandals,  Alexander Wang. Jumpsuit, Derek Lam. Earrings, Janis by Janis Savitt. Ring, Alexis Bittar.

Dive into ocean-inspired hues.

Top, skirt and briefs, Missoni. Cuffs,  Aurélie Bidermann. Sandals, Attilio Giusti Leombruni.

Mercury rising.

Dress, Michael Kors. Bangle (top), Ben-Amun. Bangle (bottom), Janis by Janis Savitt. Sandals, Stuart Weitzman.

Get a leg up with sharp trousers.

Tunic and pants,  Akris. Earrings, Janis by Janis Savitt. Cuff, Alexis Bittar.

Dress, Salvatore Ferragamo. Sandals, Dries Van Noten.

Jump-start your assests in dresses made for action.

Gown, Carolina Herrera. Cuff, Aurélie Bidermann. Sandals, Attilio Giusti Leombruni.

Dress, Tommy Hilfiger. Bangles,  Kenneth Jay Lane. Sandals, Fendi.

Turn up the drama in bold long lengths.

Dress, Bottega Veneta. Necklace,  Kara by Kara Ross. Bracelet, Aurélie Bidermann.

Gown, Giorgio Armani. Bangles, Janis by Janis Savitt. Ring (left),  Aurélie Bidermann. Ring (right), Alexis Bittar.

Like us on Facebook:

Follow us on Twitter:

Leave a Reply