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March 10, 2009

Chicago Manual of Style—3/10/09

Though it’s not yet time to happily shove winter wear to the back of the closet, spring has almost sprung. Chicago weather is notoriously unpredictable. It might be sunny one day, and snowing the next. This season’s fashion forecast is just as polarized: while some looks are fresh, others are better left buried under a foot of snow. After scouting spring clothes in stores and on the runways, here are my picks for the most trendy and most terrible looks of the season.

Trendy: Cloudy-day Chic

April showers bring May flowers, but that doesn’t mean you want to get caught in the storm. Brighten up a rainy day with some sunny, waterproof accessories. Brooklyn-based design duo Toni Hacker and Benjamin Harnett, the pair behind the Hayden-Harnett line, have teamed up with Target to create a line of affordable handbags and accessories. While I love almost everything by the cult-favorite brand, the delicate parasol from their Target collection is a standout success. The delicate umbrella is shaped almost like a raindrop, and features bright red, yellow, and blue graphics of textured leaves ($22, www.target.com).

You’ll be singing in the rain when you stomp down the street in Hunter’s Royal Horticultural Society rain boots. The British company, known for their wet-weather wares, partnered with the Horticultural Society to make a line of boots emblazoned with botanical drawings. I love the cheery, feminine knee-high boots featuring images of peaches. These shoes almost make me look forward to puddle-filled days ($68, www.zappos.com).

Terrible: Jumpsuits

One-piece looks were all over the spring fashion shows, and while the slinky satin jumpsuits were sleek at Derek Lam, Dries von Noten, and Diane von Furstenburg, these looks don’t look so sophisticated when translated from the runway to the real world. The outlandish disco-queen outfits are both impractical (going to the bathroom has never been such a hassle!) and unflattering when taken from the showroom to the street. On humid days, these clingy looks will look wrinkled and wilted. Best to chalk this style up to artistic imagination and shop elsewhere.

Trendy: Frontier Fashion

Luella and Marc Jacobs were thinking home on the range for spring, outfitting their models in stripes, faded floral prints, and plaid linen sundresses. If you don’t want to dress like a Laura Ingalls Wilder character, steer clear of quilted skirts and fringed suede vests, and opt for more subtle prairie-inspired accessories. Instead of wearing this trend from head to toe, use individual pieces to accent wardrobe staples like jeans and a tee. Gap and Forever 21 carry lightweight checked scarves ($9-$30) that will help you look pretty, instead of like a pioneer.

Terrible: Skeletal Styles

Rodarte and Alexander McQueen brought skeletons out of the closet for spring when they featured skeleton-inspired prints and silhouettes on the runway. McQueen’s silk-blend jacket features a print reminiscent of the spinal cord and vertebrae. McQueen’s leather toe-detail pumps are totally creepy: the beige pumps would be classic and charming, if they didn’t feature five toe-shaped indentations right where the toes lie in the shoe. The result isn’t fashionable, but freaky. At Rodarte, a barely-there bodice featured strips of silk draped in the pattern of a rib cage, including extra-thick strips serving as the sternum and clavicle. Given the fashion industry’s historical fetish for the skeletally-thin, it seems totally tasteless to capitalize on styles that celebrate this anatomy.

The fashion forecast for spring is only partly cloudy. While some of spring’s biggest looks are bleak, others are bright. Stock up on fresh rain gear and flirty frontier florals, and skip fashion flops like jumpsuits and skeleton-inspired styles. Chicago will be overcast and gray for a few more months, so choose clothes that will put some sunshine into spring.