Paris fashion trends favor romance

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The Paris pret-a-porter shows that closed this week left clear indicators for how women should dress for spring-summer 2006: There was an air of romanticism and dignity in nearly every collection.


Attendance at every catwalk show was packed to the rafters _ in contrast to past seasons, where many seats were left vacant. Many feel that as designers are creating pretty, romantic and reasonable clothes for «real» women, interest is on the rise.

Nearly every designer had some version of the peasant blouse, often worn off the shoulders. Jean Paul Gaultier looked to the Ukraine, etching his blouses with needlepoint designs and slipping a vest on top. Phoebe Philo at Chloe cut hers from English eyelet embroidered cotton, while Andrew Gn splashed his vibrant Pucci-styled prints on organza blouses belted over a pencil slim skirt.

Look for the return of the shirtwaist dress. Nearly everyone had a version of this garment, which buttons down the front from a shirt collar and is belted at the waist.

At Chanel, they were loose-fitting and splashed with an oversized houndstooth check in black and white. At Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs sent out a double-breasted dress in mocha cotton with epaulets and patch pockets.

Smock dresses, tent dresses and loose-fitting shifts will be a cool, comfortable way to get through the summer in style. They can be as simple as an English embroidered cotton smock worn over frilly little shorts from Chloe, or as easy as the loose-fitting flesh-tone sheaths with a touch of black lace shown at Christian Dior.

Ruffles, flounces and frills were everywhere. They were on the bottom of a silk taffeta trench coat in Sonia Rykiels collection, around the neck and down the front of YSLs shirts under matador bolero jackets, gracefully cascading down from the hips of Antonio Marras sumptuous ankle-length floral gowns at Kenzo, and at the back of the pinstriped redingote jackets shown at Marithe & Francois Girbaud.

Designers including Valentino and Elie Saab featured soft, floral silk organza or georgette dresses cut in ruffled tiers cascading down from a small empire waist or bra top.

After years of hip-hugger skirts and pants, waists are back on the rise. Even when stovepipe pants are low, they are now cut about two inches below the waist. The newest look in low waist lines is a cotton suit with a long torso.

At Nina Ricci and Stella McCartney, low-riding dirndl skirts were shown with hip-length curvy jackets showing just a sliver of skin.

Also making a comeback were skirts with cummerbund waistlines like those below-the-knee pencil-thin skirts worn with waist-length tuxedo jackets at YSL, and dirndl or gathered skirts worn under curvy jackets like those from Lagerfeld Gallery.

Flower prints, particularly in the faded chartreuse and cranberry tones found in 1950s draperies, will also be very popular next summer. Look for mixtures of these prints like those put together in the multiple layered ruffled dresses at Kenzo, and the soft georgette skirts worn with contrasting embroidered waist-length jackets at Christian Lacroix.

In a word, the key to getting through next summer in style is romance. Think pretty, be sweet.