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Keeping it simple

This year's plentiful crop of summer fashions is anything but restrictive, and it is based on the premise that once the whether warms up, no one wants to bother much about clothes.

The new fashions are accordingly uncomplicated -- soft and loose is the general rule. There is no single prevailing shape, and different choices of fabric abound. Some styles are wide and full, others are straight and comparatively narrow. Lengths can be as short, medium, or long as the wearer likes them. Who could ask for anything more?

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Assuming that everyone starts with the common objective of looking neat, clean, organized, and, above all, cool, everybody gets an open ticket to attaining a fashionable image. The only knotty problem to face is the decisionmaking process: how to work out a pleasing and practical wardrobe from this year's extra-generous assortment.

The variety ranges from decoratively ruffled to minimalist simple looks, and within these categories there are yet again other categories. Ruffles, for example, may mean folkloric flounces, romantic sheers, or dandified regency. The spectrum of tailored clothes extends from standard classic sportswear to the newer, more fluid silk crepe de Chine separates.

The selection of warm weather clothes in silk is, incidentally, a story in itself. This most luxurious of summer fabrics is particularly well represented in dresses found in both plain pastels and bright colors as well as arrays of prints (stripes especially). Sportswear pieces of raw silk tweed and of mixtures of silk, linen, rayon, and cotton are among the more collectible investment-type separates on hand in the stores. Many of these jackets, skirts, and trousers are seasonless items which, if purchased in a neutral color, have year-round uses.

Dressing in components, as most women do these days, offers fresh alternatives this summer, notably culottes and walking shorts, either one of which is going to be cooler on a hot day than ankle-length pants. With a tailored jacket and a camisole or a short-sleeved cotton shirt, these innovative kinds of trousers add up to a suit look that could be acceptable to wear to the office.

Otherwise, the skirt that wraps (a liberal overlap is vital), is pleated all around, flared, or gathered will be more comfortable than the classic straight skirt which often comes with the further confinement of a belt.And who needs that in 90-degree weather?

Suit looks can, by the way, be either matched or unmatched as to color and fabric this season. The plain suitlike jacket over a print crepe de Chine dress or pleated silky skirt also has a high fashion rating. Convertibility makes the sundress with its own jacket a wise summer buy. The removable jacket, a plus factor in changing temperatures, makes sense for after-business dates as well as for weekend travel to the country.

Speaking of weekend clothes, stretch terry is still a going fashion in beach gear, but velour is phasing out of the picture.While bottoms can be anything from knickers to flouncy peasant skirts, tops such as the halter, tube, bateau or scoop-neck knit serve best when they have a related jacket or cardigan (the twin-set idea). Shirts over shirts (long sleeve over short sleeve), in seersucker, for example, are other functional combinations.

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Beachwear centers around what the industry calls swimsuits and many other people call bathing suits. The one-piece stretch-Lycra maillot is in first place in the swimming suit lineup with low-backed, high-cut leg styles around in proliferate quantities. Strapless styles with adjustable ties that can be worn with matching overskirts could double as patio dress-ups, if there is no time to change.

When shopping, the main point to keep to the fore is one that wardrobe experts are always stressing: the importance of basic colors. Sticking to tones of beige, or the olive-khaki range (which will be very popular next fall), or a mauvey taupe for one's main separates makes innumerable variations possible.

The most chic combinations now in currency are light jackets, skirts, pants, et al with a dark blouse or camisole. Natural linen, on of this year's top fabrics, teams up well with navy, plum, burgundy, dark green, or black.

Mixing textures is another good way to extend the uses of separates pieces. In cotton alone there are varying weaves including hopsacking, nubby boucles, sailcloth, broadcloth, poplin, jersey, jacquards, and printed or plain voiles. Women can profit from what men have already learned about judicious mixings in tones of the same color of different weaves and textures.

As for accessories, texture (the ropey belt, the straw handbag, for instance) an work wonders in this area, too. A well-chosen dash of one bright color, such as one of the new intense pastels like coral, lilac, or turquoise, for instance, in a shoe, a bag, a hair ornament, or a tank top need not cost vast amounts of money and will often rev up a humdrum look.

Metallics, rife in advance fall showing in Europe and NEw York, are already on tap for summer and they are selling out in the stores. Bronze, copper, pewter, antique gold, and burnished silver totes, handbags, belts, and pumps are the precursors of what a punster might call a metal orgy in the coming months.

A high fashion look at the moment (they go well with solid navy, black, wine, olive, white, or any of the beige tones), metallics for day appear to be more than flash in the fashion pan. Gleaming new touches to consider in lighting up your warm weather turnouts, they could carry on through Christmas.

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