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Women Spring Forward into Fashion


I'm Michel Martin, and you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. Spring is almost here and that means it's time to say goodbye to your winter wardrobe and dress up in the season's latest fashions. Last week, we learned about what's new in men's wear. Now it's time to find out about the next big thing in women's fashion. So, if you're looking in your closet and trying to figure out what to hang up and what to maybe toss out, help is here. Joining us now is Agnes Commack. She's the fashion director for Essence Magazine. Also with us is trend analyst Najwa Moses. She's the brains behind the Styleaholics fashion website and podcast. Welcome, ladies.

Ms. AGNES COMMACK (Fashion Director, Essence Magazine): Thank you.

Ms. NAJWA MOSES (Styleaholics Fashion Website): Thank you.

MARTIN: Agnes, we talked about men's fashion last week. And I have to tell you there was some very distressing news, that boot-cut jeans are out. Please, tell us that's not so. Because you know, boot-cut jeans make you look cute.

Ms. COMMACK: Even though the boot-cut jean is out, which I believe is out too, it's time for some fresh options. I know you've been seeing a lot of the skinny jean. It's continuing to be hot. People that are any size can wear a skinny jean. Nobody should ever tell you that a plus size woman cannot wear a skinny jean because she can.

MARTIN: OK. So, skinny jeans. Agnes, anything else you're really excited about for spring?

Ms. COMMACK: Um, also in denim. We're either seeing a skinny jean, we're seeing a wide-leg jean, and I also love a high-waisted pant. I think it's fun, it's fresh. It's just a great way to accentuate the shape and just look cool and hip.

MARTIN: OK. Najwa, what are you excited about for spring?

Ms. MOSES: Well, I'm really excited about the - we're going very bold this spring. And you're seeing like huge, huge jewelry. I'm talking about like tons of layered, chunky necklaces, and bracelets, and pendants, and broaches. You know, you kind of, the way that you tend to wear that jewelry you sort of let it be like the centerpiece. Maybe you wear like a huge necklace that's got wood, or bone, or you know, maybe has even a tribal feel to it. And you wear maybe a simple dress or simple top and simple jeans with it. We're going to be seeing a lot of tribal prints this season. Everyone from Oscar de la Renta to Diane Von Furstenberg...

MARTIN: Can I just pause here and ask about that? Now, how do you all feel about that? I mean, this is every couple of years we see this so-called tribal, you know, look. And then they pull out the safari suits and so forth. I'm just - does this every push your buttons? I mean, on the one hand I do see the sometimes the African-American models get a little bit more prominence when they're pulling out the safari look. On the other hand, I don't - is there any ambivalence about this for either of you?

Ms. COMMACK: No. I think - I feel that fashion is a revolving door, and there are things that go in and out of style. And tribal and safaris is just one of those looks that come in and out of style. You see it one season and it's pretty popular and then you know, maybe next season it'll be something different.

MARTIN: I'm guess what I'm wondering more about is the cultural appropriation aspects of it.

Ms. MOSES: I think it's OK. I mean, I have to agree with Agnes, maybe because we're fashion people. A lot of times I like it because people are bringing it fashion forward. So, like I went out and bought a traditional African top and then I belted it with a skinny belt and then I wore my skinny jeans with it. So, I think, it doesn't bother me. I mean, because people kind of use it, they may trim out a blazer with it or they may make a stretch skirt in it. And it's not just like African print. I mean, you have, you know, Asiatic prints, you have Eastern European prints. So, it's just more about just kind of this global influence coming out in a print basis.

MARTIN: I see what you're saying. It's kind of like a multicultural thing.

Ms. MOSES: Yeah. And each time they bring it out it's different.

MARTIN: Mm hm.

Ms. MOSES: You know, it's not so much the kente cloth now. It's a different kind of print, it's more fitted, it's more belted. Maybe it was a top before, but now you see more pants. Maybe it was a jacket before, now you see more dresses. Each time they bring it out it's done in a more - in a fresh way, right?

MARTIN: And who am I kidding? I love tan. I'm not going to lie to you. I love tan, OK? I'm sorry, my friends - I'm the joke among my friends because I can wear tan every day. But they won't let me, thankfully. What about color? I'm seeing a lot of bright colors. Is that every spring or are they particularly - any colors that you're particularly going to see this spring that you guys - that you ladies like?

Ms. COMMACK: I think every spring, color is important. This season I think it's less about a pastel and more about a bright, bold color.

Ms. MOSES: Yes.

Ms. COMMACK: I'm seeing lots of yellow, lots of great blues, lots of great purples. Think rainbow. Think rainbow colors, and that's what you're going to see in the stores for the season.

MARTIN: Najwa, what about you?

Ms. MOSES: I see, well what I also see is a strong trend in metallics. And at the same time that you have like the tribal prints coming out you have a lot of sheers, and what I call clears, coming out. So, you have a lot of dresses done in like satins, silks, ruffles, chiffons, in a den of muted tones like beige, off-white, grey, and then at the other spectrum you have people with like these bolded prints. So I think yes, I agree with Agnes. Every season you see a lot of color, this season I'm seeing a lot of candy colors which I think is still reflective of that eighties retro feel that we're still having right now in fashion. But there's also a lot of clears going on this season. You're going to see a lot of clear bags are returning, clear bangles, clear heals...

MARTIN: Really? That's funny.

Ms. MOSES: So I think that's really good because it's going to be a great balance to have these accessories that are clear against like these bold prints and these tribal prints.

MARTIN: I've never understood, how do you work the clear accessories?

Ms. MOSES: I think the clear accessory is interesting. I mean on like let's say you have on like a pencil skirt in a sort of tribal print and it has a lot of like let's say greens or yellow and blacks and then you paired that with maybe a dark denim blazer, a black blazer, then you can throw on like a really chunky clear bangle and you're fine, you know and that's enough. Or you can do the same type of maybe a cocktail ring with a clear globe on it.

MARTIN: See here's my problem with clear. I don't want everybody to see what's in my bag. I really don't. I really don't. Do you need to see the old pacifier and the used tissues? No you don't.

Ms. MOSES: Yeah, not with a bag, but definitely the jewelry with the big oversized beads and the bangles and the rings. There are some amazing designers like Alexis Petard (ph) who does it in a great way and you can get them in different colors. So it just - it would look amazing against our skin - against any skin.

MARTIN: It is kind of fun for summer too. Looking ahead to summer there's just something fun about a big kind of retro bag for summer. Isn't there something about that?

Ms. MOSES: Yes.

MARTIN: But speaking of purses, if you could just stay on accessories for just a minute here. I know we saw a lot of the big bags in the last couple of years. What do you all think about that?

Ms. MOSES: Yes. Right now what I'm actually seeing, because I go out every night and I'm always trend-spotting with photos and at parties or events and it's something I've been asking about across the blogs, like is everyone carrying these luggage sized handbags? I am seeing these handbags, they're just getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and I'm like, am I the only one with weak shoulders and weak wrists? Like these things are huge and what I do love about them, they're sort of structured geometrically - they usually tend to be in like a kind of an oval bowling bag shape or they tend to be in a squared shape. I'm seeing them in candy colors, and I'm seeing them in that patent leather finish. So I'm seeing them like in taupes and blues and purples. They're beautiful to behold, but I just don't know if they're beautiful to be-hold. Like I mean they're huge, you know. And then I'm seeing retro fanny packs, but not like the ugly little ones that they had in the eighties, but more like you may have in leather...

Ms. COMMACK: I don't know if I'm ready for a fanny pack.

Ms. MOSES: I have one. I bought one. I love them. I had a retro fanny pack, and it's purple and it has like a doorknocker hook on it. It was made by an independent designer.

Ms. COMMACK: That's something that I'm not that excited about.

Ms. MOSES: You can't do it, Agnes?

Ms. COMMACK: Can't do it. I love a lot of unique shapes, but the fanny pack...

MARTIN: Yeah, I have enough fanny of my own, I don't need to add to it, I got to be honest about that.

Ms. MOSES: Yeah, I love it. And then the clutch is here. The clutch has been here to stay. And now you have the bowtie clutch which is the bow or the big bow on the end of the clutch and you can slip your hand through it. You have the oversized clutch. I love a clutch.

Ms. COMMACK: I love a clutch, and we've been seeing clutches for the last couple of seasons, and I think you're going to see it for a couple more seasons.

MARTIN: I think clutches are so ladylike, but I also feel that the opportunity to use them in so limited. Like at church or you go to a lunch - do you know what I mean? I just still find myself grabbing my huge bag.

Ms. COMMACK: No, you can get it a little bigger, not as big as those big bags with the huge shoulder straps, but you can get them a little bigger and you can still put, you know, quite a few things in your clutch bag and I think they're just an interesting different shape versus, you know, something that's a little bit bigger and rounder, you know?

Ms. MOSES: I agree. If you're having one of those things when you just don't have to carry too much stuff or maybe you're going out at night. Instead of carrying like maybe a hobo bag you can totally throw a bigger sized clutch on and in fun colors, and they come in a variety of shapes. And some of them come out. They fold out like an accordion so you can get more things in them.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR News, and we're talking with fashion mavens Agnes Comic of Essence Magazine and Najwa Moses of Styleaholics about the trends for spring for ladies. Agnes, I think we've all had that experience where we fall in love with a style that's in the magazines, but you know maybe you're not 90 pounds and are there some hot trends that you think work just for everybody? I know we've been talking about a lot of them, but perhaps the more mature customer? Perhaps the larger-sized customer? You want to be fashionable, but you don't want to, you know, look your boss lady? Well I don't mind looking like the boss lady, but you know what I'm saying.

Ms. COMMACK: Well, you know you'd be surprised. For the smaller customer as well as a larger customer there are things that you can do that you can transition from someone that's a size two to someone that' s a size 12. For instance, the knit theme was very, very, very big this season and it's very popular for spring and there's some wonderful knits out there for a woman in the plus size market.

MARTIN: What's the trick to wearing knits if you're not 90 pounds? Is it the right undergarments or is it fit? What?

Ms. COMMACK: It's definitely the right undergarments. I feel you shouldn't go anywhere without a spank. Spank I think is the best invention anywhere with everything.

MARTIN: For those who aren't aware, who aren't addicted to them like I am? What are they?

Ms. COMMACK: It's not a girdle exactly, but it's this lycra lorex - the best way to describe it is pantyhose without the hose part, although sometimes you can get it with a hose and you pull it up and it pulls you in. It sucks you in and it doesn't - it's not as meaty as a girdle so you don't see the lumps and bumps.

MARTIN: We prefer smoother. We prefer a body smoother, Agnes, right?

Ms. COMMACK: Yeah, to me it's very close to a body smoother, but it's wonderful and you can lose inches off your waist and your hips in a spank.

MARTIN: I can't believe I just revealed my secret to the world.


Ms. MOSES: I'm telling everybody you're telling everybody, spanks are the best.

MARTIN: OK, Najwa, is there anything from last season that you really just want to take out of your closet right now and just make it go away?

Ms. MOSES: Well, it's not in my closet.

MARTIN: Excuse us.

Ms. MOSES: It's not in my closet, but brightly, those crocks that everybody was wearing last season. They have to go. They have to go. Super wide belts which had a long run, but it's time to put them down. The skinny belt is in. The cinched waist silhouette is still here to stay, but you're going to work with a little bit of a skinny belt. I think leggings are still here to stay, but you know you want to wear them appropriately. If you know that you have areas that are not exactly smooth or pleasant to look at...

Ms. COMMACK: You should always cover your butt.

Ms. MOSES: So that it works appropriately.

MARTIN: Cover your butt.

Ms. MOSES: I don't know, I think it depends.

Ms. COMMACK: I think, I really do think like you said. You need to have the right coverage. I think seeing your backside in a legging is equivalent of someone wearing a stocking out in the street.

MARTIN: Break it down, Agnes. Break it down. Is there anything, Agnes, either from last season that you would just say it's time to let it go besides my beloved boot cut jeans? Or is there something new coming out this spring that you think, you know what? Maybe bypass.

Ms. COMMACK: A Capri pant, please don't do them. I don't want to see anymore Capri pants.


Ms. COMMACK: Well, not right now. Not right now. It may come back, but right now to me a Capri pant is not something that I'd like to see anybody in. And like I said before although color is nice and the bright and bold color is wonderful, those pale pastels like peach - don't wear them anywhere. It's not nice.

Ms. MOSES: I think an alternative to the Capri, because I agree with Agnes, let me just say frankly it's tired and it's very dated and it makes you look like you're 70 and living in South Florida. I think leggings are a great alternative and also I'm noticing...

MARTIN: Could I just tell you that there are tears here in the studio?

Ms. MOSES: Really? Well tear on and move on.

MARTIN: I'll just say - we are like, a group of us here are actually kind of...

Ms. MOSES: Crying?

MARTIN: Give us a minute.

Ms. MOSES: You should wear the Capris in the house.

MARTIN: OK, all right.

Ms. MOSES: But you're also seeing shorts. We're seeing winter shorts, really, really short, that you were supposed to wear with like fun leggings or tights, and then we're also seeing denim shorts made a little bit longer going to the knee and they're fitted all the way through.

Ms. COMMACK: Those are perfectly acceptable. I agree with you.

MARTIN: But you know I can imagine some of our listeners are saying. You know who died and left you all queen? You know who decides? Who decides what's hot, and do you find that people are more interested in fashion as a result of all the attention like "Project Runway" or "America's Next Top Model"? Do you know what I mean? I'm just curious but...


Ms. MOSES: Of course, I think anything that's media related that brings fashion to the forefront makes people more interested.

MARTIN: Do you think it makes it more "small D" democratic in the sense that people sort of feel like I'?m free to do my own thing or do you feel that it works the other way? That perhaps people, because the style experts as it were have so much more prominence that their word means more.

Ms. COMMACK: No, I think that there are people who, in very case, there are people who are leaders and there are people who are followers and it's the same thing with fashion. There are people who are going to go out there and have a wonderful sense of style and pull their look together and I may say, oh you know what that Capri pant doesn't work, but if somebody goes out there and puts it together in the right way then it'll be hot for them. I mean fashion - the great thing about fashion and fashion is an art form, is that it's subjective to who it is that's wearing it. They can do whatever they want with it and have fun with it. We're talking about what we see is in and what we see is out, but I could walk down the street tomorrow, especially in New York City, and see somebody rocking something that I would say, you know what, I'd never wear that, but it looks pretty fantastic on this person.

MARTIN: OK. Najwa, what about you?

Ms. MOSES: I agree with Agnes. I think right now when you saw like the return of the 80s starting with like the spring of '01 you saw people like really opening up their taste level, and the fact that they weren't scared to be individuals and this happened in music and in fashion. I think now more than ever people - the fact that people want to work in fashion, and you know you have all these movies, you have "Sex and the City" and you have a Gucci movie coming out and you have something going on with Coco Chanel and Houston, I mean now more than ever people just really have this appetite for fashion. It's pretty cool. I think the appetite for fashion is definitely growing.

MARTIN: So what do you have on?

Ms. MOSES: Oh, actually I have on a pajama top. I have on a flannel pajama top, just talking about flipping it out, Agnes. OK, I have this blue flannel pajama top which I belted with this blood-red belt, which is not wide, but it's a medium width, it's not skinny.

MARTIN: Wait, wait, Najwa, please, are you really wearing pajamas?

Ms. MOSES: I am wearing a flannel - but let me tell you, I picked it up off the floor of Old Navy. I'm not afraid to say I went to Old Navy. And I thought it was a top and I was like oh I'm going to make this a jacket and I get there and they're like oh the bottom's missing. I was like the bottom? They're like it's a pajama top. I'm like, oh well can I just have it anyway and it was like three bucks.

Ms. COMMACK: Lingerie looks are very big so you were right on target.

Ms. MOSES: Oh yes. And I have on some skinny jeans, old school, and I have like an over the knee black boot.

MARTIN: Excuse me, excuse me. Agnes, what do you have on?

Ms. COMMACK: I'm going to say I'm a very simple girl so - and I'm in New York, and I can be a little bit of a slob sometimes so I spill stuff on myself.

MARTIN: Agnes, stop lying. You are the diva of divas so don't even, please go ahead.

Ms. COMMACK: I'm wearing a black tiered skirt and some snake flats...

MARTIN: Simple.

Ms. COMMACK: And a cashmere cardigan and a little lingerie lacey top.

Ms. MOSES: Nice.

MARTIN: Simple.

Ms. MOSES: Simple. Snake skin.

MARTIN: Simple, but snakeskin. Agnes Commack, our diva is the fashion director for Essence magazine. She joined us from her office in Manhattan. Najwa Moses is a fashion writer. Creator of the website and podcast Styleaholics, and she was kind enough to join us from our New York bureau. Ladies, thank you so much.

Ms. MOSES: Thank you.

Ms. COMMACK: Thank you.

MARTIN: Remember, with Tell Me More the conversation never ends. In the coming days we will be talking about the war. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq we would like to hear from you. If you have served in Iraq, if you have a loved one there, please tell us how the war has changed your life. Share your story. We plan to broadcast some of your messages next week. Please go to our blog at You can also call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again that's 202-842-3522.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.