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Arts in Review

Haute Stuff: Fashion flies south

It was during the full flush of El Paseo Fashion Week that I made my trip, and though I did not make it to any of the shows, the streets were compensation enough.

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By Leanna Pankratz (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 28, 2012

I had the good fortune this past week to jet down to Palm Springs for some much needed R&R. Take it from me: nothing feels as good as 30-degree weather, knowing there’s rain back home. Sorry, friends, Abbotsford just doesn’t provide tans like this.

Tennis, pool, and desert hiking aside, there is something else that will always stand out to me on any trip – whether overseas and exotic, or a jaunt to the States. This is the simple joy of witnessing what people are wearing in other places. I’m always surprised by the change in fashion philosophy that a departure from small town style can provide, and I have been struck and, frankly, visually stimulated by what I’ve come across down here.

A desert, palm-lined oasis favoured by such names as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin (a heartthrob of mine) and Bob Hope, Palm Springs is a lush garden of all things lifestyle – be it shopping, sport or food. An area with no shortage of country clubs and art enthusiasts, there was a truly wide variety of fashion folk for me to observe, and I came away delighted.

It was during the full flush of El Paseo Fashion Week that I made my trip, and though I did not make it to any of the shows, the streets were compensation enough. I was very inspired by my fellow shoppers, in summer gypsy-chic and Old-Hollywood classic shapes, swanning down El Paseo, the city’s premium shopping district. In the land of packed rooftop restaurants (lunch and mojitos on Tommy Bahama’s upstairs patio), and sun-soaked sidewalks, the style du jour down here consists mainly of crisp white linens, and, paradoxically, anything flowing and bohemian – occasionally a merging of the two.

I saw the desert’s answer to Riviera chic, particularly in the lovely ivory sundresses, loose pants and swimsuit cover-ups in Ralph Lauren and Tommy Bahama, and also my fellow sun-tanners. White linen seems to be a favourite down here, and I certainly approved of the clean, classic line it creates, plus its functionally sun-reflective nature. I can see how the likes of French New Wave icons Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot favoured linen for their decadent, sun-drenched romps through St. Tropez (when they weren’t skinny dipping in the Med!). Sheer, nearly-nude linen overtop of a coloured swimsuit is classic sexy, and can be amped up with gold embellishments, and a keyhole neckline for a not-so-small insinuation of skin; pair with a wide-brimmed black or white sunhat, and you’re ready for Resort 2012. White café trousers and Marina trousers, courtesy of J.Crew, can be perfectly paired with navy stripes and perhaps slim boat shoes for a classic, nautical approach that will never lose its elegance. “You can never go wrong with linen,” as a fellow J. Crew shopper quipped, piling her arms full of a mountain of white that I could tell would be a swimmingly fine poolside wardrobe.

Silk headscarves also made their appearance, ranging in presentation from the manner of Grace Kelly (together with a great pair of oversize cat’s eye sunglasses), and ‘40s fictional feminist Rosie the Riveter (slightly rockabilly, slim red scarves laced through up-done hair). Batik-print headscarves were also tied nonchalantly around the entire head, paired with loose braids or long, flowing hair, in a flower child ensemble that sang of shoeless dances around midnight desert campfires.

Increasingly taken by the Morocco-inspired look featured in Kate Moss’ line for Longchamp Paris, I was enchanted by the faux jewel-and-gold encrusted hippie headbands in Anthropologie, perfectly modernized from being too Sonny and Cher, yet ’60s enough to be retro-chic. Long, flowing skirts in floral or tribal prints are also making their waves, as well as short, psychedelic body-con skirts that provide a similar look with less fabric. Pair any of these with large wooden, gold or feathered jewelry, and you’ve found the Turkish sunset – or at least the Palm Springs one.

There really is nothing like a holiday, and I’m looking forward to returning home fresh, rejuvenated and certainly inspired by a change of scenery – headscarves and linen included.

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