Mirror, Mirror | The dress impressed; so did fashion no-nos

This year, there was a major disconnect between the expectations of fashion arbiters and what people actually wore.

Yes, the dress - cited by most designers and the magazines that love them as a 2007 must-have - was strong. Whether paired with a dark-washed jean or patterned tights, it was the most coveted and worn item of the year. Shirt, trapeze, tunic, shift - dresses were an easy-to-wear choice, and kind to most figures.

"That had to be one of our biggest looks this past year," said Tuesday Gordon, of Center City's Joan Shepp.

"And it was so important in so many different proportions. With the [shoe] bootie . . . it was just huge."

But many of this year's fashion choices left self-appointed stylistas shaking their heads.

Those bendable, colorful Crocs were deemed aesthetically atrocious, yet they became a major leader in footwear. Even President Bush was spotted wearing black Crocs with icky black socks. He's no style icon, but people talked and bought the shoe anyway.

And then there is that unlikely It Bag, Vera Bradley. The quilted floral satchels actually rivaled Longchamps with area suburban teens.

Ugg boots remained on the radar after almost three years in the fashion eye. Nordstrom sold out shipments as fast as the store got them (I know; I'm trying to track down a chocolate-brown pair). Despite their furry insides and the disapproval of fashion mavens, Uggs became a year-round shoe as young women, imitating starlets like Kate Hudson and Lindsay Lohan, rocked them with flimsy spaghetti-strapped dresses during the summer.

Speaking of shoes, the flat - whether the real Tory Burch deal or a reasonable Nine West facsimile - was more sought-after than the round-toe pump. This makes me chuckle, as it's proof that women are tired of having their feet pinched.

At the beginning of the year, the skinny jean was still riding on its hype from the previous fall. By September, however, its popularity had simply evaporated, to be replaced by wide-legged dark denim. Oh, joy! (I finally found a pair on sale for $15 from Mix It at J.C. Penney.)

"Those dark wide-legged jeans helped with the retro glamour of the '80s," said Leehe Fai, owner of the Center City boutique bearing her name. "We saw women pairing them with dark neon colors. It was retro and fabulous."

Glamour this year meant red lipstick, bouncing curly manes, and metallics. We tried the red lipstick, and hair in the clubs went long, but while we leaned toward metallic belts and purses, the Alice + Olivia rugby-striped dress didn't seem to be a hit in any local circles.

Suit separates in deep gray, navy and pinstripes in voluminous shapes were predicted to be big for fall. The colors clicked, but the different proportions - jeckets with 3/4-length sleeves paired with pencil skirts - scared people. It's a tough look to wear and, unlike the dress, it's not necessarily figure-friendly.

I'm not giving up on this look completely. Once our eyes get used to the silhouette, I think we'll be willing to take more of a chance on the structured pieces next year.

While suits didn't catch on, the opaque tights that went with them did - especially hold-it-all-in Spanx. They had the power to give an old look a new bit of spunk, said Marcia DiBona, store manager at South Moon Under.

Fashion prodded us to go green, and we were reminded to be eco-friendly everywhere from home-grown designer Behnaz Sarafpour's New York runway show to H&M's special lines (how much consumers actually believe in green fashion is yet to be determined). Gap made a serious comeback with its Go Red campaign, procceds of which are to help fight AIDS in Africa.

Then there were the looks we wore over and over again, even though the fashion police told us to "give it up!"

Oversized sunglasses and bags reigned. We wore capris all summer, despite our boyfriends' dismay. Plastic watches encrusted in diamonds were an unexpected hit among adult women.

Finally, we can't ignore the onslaught of celebrity lines, mostly done on the cheap.

Sarah Jessica Parker debuted an Old Navy-style collection at Steve & Barry's that didn't really push any trends except the one toward saving money, as everything was $20 or less.

Vera Wang debuted a moody grouping at Kohl's. We salivated as the line came out, but felt lackluster at the end. Luella Bartley appeared at Target, Viktor & Rolf at H&M, Kate Moss at London's Top Shop. The list goes on and on.

Chatter about coming styles for 2008 has already started. We are predicting that nude will be the new color, along with slate-gray and mint-green. Florals will be hot, as will bold black-and-white stripes and tiered skirts. Many trends will be influenced by far corners of the world, such as Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

But I'm no fool. I know that what people actually buy is more important than dictates from designers. So I'll be watching the streets and stores to see what is really hot.


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/

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