It’s spring, ladies – let’s dress the part

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Spring is when a girlfriend calls on a Saturday afternoon and says, “Let’s go try on dresses.”

And then, twirling in front of a three-way mirror in bare feet and a flirty chiffon Anna Sui concoction that is so Carrie Bradshaw, it really feels like spring has arrived. And if the sun is peeking out from the clouds when you emerge with shopping bags in hand, well, then you know Mother Nature is feeling it, too.

“I don’t think there’s been a better season for dresses,” said Sally Singer, fashion news director for Vogue. “They’re like cherries – you buy them when they’re in season. And you’re never going to not want a cherry.”

From runways to retail racks, dresses are everywhere this spring, and at every price point. Dresses are quickly replacing jeans as the must-have item.

“We’re definitely seeing our customer trending toward the dress,” said Annie Sparrow, owner of Tulip in Seattle. “It used to be the sexy jean that everyone wanted. Now they’re going for the dress, to add a new component to their wardrobe.”

At Nordstrom’s annual spring fashion event in Seattle, dress after dress marched down the runway: a white cotton eyelet dress, a safari-inspired shirtdress, a loud floral halter dress. Nautical-inspired looks were paired with gold jewelry and metallic heels; simple cotton dresses could practically have gone barefoot.

Point taken: There’s really no wrong way to wear a dress this season. Go knee-length. Wear white – the season’s “it” color. Twirl.

“We’ve gotten to the point where it’s OK to wear jeans anywhere, and now we’re going the opposite way and taking something dressier and making it fun for all occasions,” said Linda Sabee, owner of Seattle’s Carmilia’s. “Dresses are very versatile. You can put on heels and jewelry or toss on flip-flops and go strolling.”

Anyone who has shopped for a special occasion – be it a wedding, cocktail party or hot date – knows that you can never seem to find the right dress at the right time. The time is now: Dresses are everywhere.

Tulip has jersey dresses by Leona Edmiston, cotton sundresses by Mason and chiffon garden-party dresses by Phillip Lim. Carmilia’s is carrying matte jersey by Maria Bianca Nero, 1950s-style cotton lawn dresses by Plenty and little silk shirtdresses by Tom K. Nguyen. The recently expanded Derek Andrew in Bellevue, Wash., has wearable knit dresses by Splendid, Vince, Generra and Clu.

“People gravitate toward the knit dresses because they’re really easy. You can travel-pack them and wash them in the washer and dryer,” said Cynthia Federman, co-owner of Derek Andrew. “When it’s cold in Seattle, they’re wearing them with little leggings underneath or over skinny jeans.”

Derek Andrew also carries feminine dresses by Rebecca Taylor, including a sleeveless dotted dress and vintage-inspired nude chiffon – both fashion-forward choices.

“A dress in dots, a dress in nude or lace, and maybe in a floral are great buys for spring,” said Singer, the Vogue editor. “If you really want to be directional and think ahead, you might want to buy polka dots. It’s very on trend.”

And for those who think dresses are just too, well, dressy, think again.

“There’s a whole psychology around dresses. I liken it to middle school, when you have to call all your girlfriends and make sure you’re not the only one (wearing a dress),” said Sarah Caples, owner of image consulting company Impeccable (www.impeccableseattle.com).

“First of all, you have to decide that it’s not hard to wear a dress, because it’s easier to wear than anything.”

More signs of spring

• White is the color of the season. If you can’t pull off a white dress, try white paired with black or an eye-popping white bag.

• Lace and crochet – they’re not just for tablecloths anymore. Look for eyelet details; laser cutouts; and feminine frills on dresses, skirts and tops.

• Dots, from polka dots to Dalmatian prints, will only get bigger come fall.

• Nudes. From cream and rose to blush and buff, there’s a shade to suit every skin tone.

• Wide belts are bigger than ever. Try one in patent leather, shiny crocodile prints or even elastic.

• Jewelry is earthy and personal. Try wood or stone accents and slender gold pieces that are personal, not flashy.

• Flat sandals, often jeweled or gilded, are kind on your bare feet and look great with the season’s dresses.

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