In the dead of winter, designer Tracy Reese can always be counted on to revive women’s senses with sun-bathed colors, fresh prints and breezy silhouettes.

Those celebratory signatures are one reason her two lines, Tracy Reese and its bohemian little sister Plenty, are a favorite of Anthropologie shoppers in any season. Reese counts first lady Michelle Obama as a client, too.

“I always love designing for spring because it’s such an optimistic season,” Reese said.

Optimism permeates all of her output of late. She is adding a Plenty dress line and launching handbags for fall. Her new eau de parfum ($68) just debuted at Anthropologie. Soon Reese’s spring designs will arrive at Nordstrom and other stores, from a runway collection that one critic called her most powerful to date.

That show opened not with a flouncy lace dress but a fluid all-black ensemble consisting of a silk to-the-floor trench and pants over a ballerina leotard. It wasn’t so much a departure as a personal reference.

“This collection was inspired by dance, specifically Martha Graham and modern dance,” Reese said. “My mom was a modern dance teacher, and my aunt is also a professor of modern dance at Wayne State in Detroit. It’s something I’ve always been surrounded with and appreciated.”

She wanted to bring pieces inspired by a dancer’s wardrobe, in their downtime, into everyday dressing.

“We looked at, how do you make that look not like sweats, but something chic yet comfortable that you can integrate into your wardrobe?” Reese said.

Reese didn’t swear off exuberance, showing floral coats and a strapless evening gown in flamingo pink. But in a nod to comfort, the gown sported pockets and was paired with flats.

“When I dress for evening, I always feel like I’m some other person, and I hate that feeling,” she said. “We showed the entire collection with flat shoes because I was sick of being in agony, and I can’t be myself when I’m not comfortable. If you’re wearing a full-length gown, no one knows if you’re wearing heels or flats.”

It helps if you’re 5 foot 7, like Reese is, or taller.

“But I think we each have to embrace our real selves,” she said. “I’ve got big hips, and I’ve got to love that about me, just as a petite woman has got to love being petite, because there’s not a lot she can do to change that. You’ve got to look at your petite advantages!”

Speaking of which, retailers are ordering more petite size ranges from brands after all but abandoning them in the past decade.

“That business is through the roof,” Reese said. “We started doing petite with a few of our retailers, and it’s a huge business. One reason is that, even if you aren’t vertically challenged, you might be a little shorter shoulder to waist, and petite cuts might fit you better. It’s a runaway success story. I’m hoping it will spread into some larger sizes as well.”

Tracy Reese's Website


©2015 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC