Shed the Cossack coats and the tweedy trousers. Ditto the sequined sweaters and crystal-studded tunics.

It’s time to slip into a white skirt and lace blouse straight out of Pride and Prejudice. Try on a simple shift sprinkled with flowers. Or, experiment with a pair of freshly-pressed linen bermudas.

Now we’re set for spring.

There’s renewal of sorts going on, both with the start of a new season and a new fashion direction that calls for a cleaner, uncomplicated way of dressing.

White is the It color to build your wardrobe around. A dress, in all its one-piece simplicity, is the must-have item that will take you through the summer. Neutrals rule. Black and white are always right. Think of them as palate cleansers after several years of rich luxe and costumey embellishment.

“The spring story is about evolving femininity, everything is subdued, understated,” says Gregg Andrews, a fashion director for Nordstrom. “It’s more about the line and shape of clothing. Interesting textures. Going back to classics.”

Yes, it’s a bit of a shock, this uncluttered and airy sensibility. It’s a look that prevails for spring and into next fall and is already evident on the red carpet. Nicole Kidman, Uma Thurman and Naomi Watts all wore graceful, ethereal gowns in blush and ivory shades to the Oscars.

Along with the pales, there’s a romantic quality to many of the clothes, especially the dresses. Layers of chiffon, paper-thin silk or Victorian lace make the point that this is a season that’s strong on femininity.

“There’s a lingerie feel in the layering and the raw edges,” Andrews says.

So how can we make a smooth transition from winter to spring when the point of view has changed so abruptly?

Start with the basics. A white shirt that looks cool even when you’re not. A black skirt in a new shape. Add a tailored jacket with interesting buttons or ribbon trim that can be worn over pants or a print dress.

Bermudas sound daring but so did cropped pants just a few seasons ago. Loathe about wearing lace on casual clothes? Just think of it as a replacement for sequins. Bubble skirts, though, is a trend we’ll have to get back to you on.


Dresses: Softly romantic or crisply tailored, this is the season of The Dress

White: Suit up in all white or choose a perfect shirt, bag or shoes

Waistlines: Define it with wide belts, string ties and sashes

Shorts: Long, lean and dressed up with a matching jacket or chic blouse

Florals: Bold and graphic or sweet and girly, both are big warm-weather statements

Wedges: Chunky, clunky shoes and sandals that work to anchor spring’s ethereal looks

Bubble skirts: Infuse a sense of whimsy into a season that craves a little fun

Black and white: A combination that’s all about simplicity and elegance

Neutrals: Think of it as a subdued palette with lots of range

© 2006, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.