Though it still feels like summer outside, retailers have begun the transition from lightweight and lighthearted vacation clothes to the more dressed-up, sophisticated styles that come with fall fashion. • But in Florida, it's hard to reconcile the excitement of a new season with the reality of endless summer. • The solution? Lightweight layers in a deeper, more autumnal color palette.
"The consumer in general is forward-looking but wants instant gratification," says Barclay Resler, vice president and head of visual management for Esprit.
You can do that with a pretty chiffon blouse, he suggests, or a short-sleeve knit dress, maybe with some buckle detail at the waist.
Lisa Axelson, head designer of Ann Taylor, is wearing her sleeveless trench now with a silk blouse and cropped black pants, and plans to use it with flannel trousers later. It is "the perfect wear-now-and-layer-later piece," she says.
Fabric choices are very important, says Banana Republic creative director Simon Kneen, a fan of tropical-weight wool. "It's designed for tropics. It's airy, and the weave is more open, but it will look refined. It has a hand touch that's drier and cooler, but you can have it in a dress, trouser, skirt, jacket — and those are the foundations of your fall closet."
Lightweight chambray denim serves the same purpose for more casual pieces.
Navy is a favorite transitional color for Resler because it plays crisp and clean against white pants, but more luxurious with high-waisted trousers in gray, camel or brown. A ruffled navy and white dot blouse in stores now has it all, he says, a cheerful vibe to finish out the summer, but ladylike enough to carry through the rest of the year.
Warm shades of orange, amber and green are trends at Kohl's for fall, but they're not dark colors, either, so they fit into a variety of weather landscapes, says David Hacker, vice president of trend and color.
Trendy items don't have to be limited to a single season, and it's those more lasting looks that are on the floor at JCPenney right now. "We're sticking with bright color," says director of women's trend Cynthia Washburn-Nester, ticking off skinny jeans in saturated shades of red, yellow and green and sleeveless tops with feminine details as top choices.
A chunky fisherman-style or shaker-knit sweater will evolve that look into full-on fall, she says, and, even now, a lighter, open-weave sweater isn't a bad idea in this very air-conditioned world.
"People aren't necessarily looking at 'fall' and 'spring' wardrobes. It's about evolving things into the next season. You give something you've loved and worn a new life by wearing it with something new," Washburn-Nester says.
Hacker of Kohl's says seasonal flexibility makes sense.
"Based on the economic times, people are learning to adapt their clothes from season to season," he said.