A new 1970s-style fashion muse, who means business during the day but can disco the night away, dominated the recent runway trends in the world's fashion capitals.
Gone from the spring 2011 collections previewed in New York, London, Paris and Milan, Italy, was the aggressive, tough woman designers had sent out to do battle with the recession. But, it seems, the fashion world isn't quite ready to embrace a full, floaty free-spirit, either.
The vision falls somewhere in between, which is the way most people live and dress.
Starting this fall, there already is movement toward high-waisted, trouser-style pants, bow blouses and longer hemlines. The fabric moves away from the body instead of cinching it. Still, you can find skinny jeans and a short biker jacket if you want them.
That will be a harder task in the coming months, and fashion insiders say women are ready for the change.
With the looser silhouettes, white and tropical-hue colors, and a relaxed vibe, designers were showing both an optimistic attitude and a willingness to invest in design instead of gimmicks, they say.
"This comes after many seasons of maximalism and decoration, but no one wants to go back to '90s minimalism," says Stefano Tonchi, editor-in-chief of W magazine. "This is romantic minimalism."
He adds: "When you look at fashion the last 20 years, there's a lot of backward movement. You can't find too many meanings in why you're going back _ last year was the '80s _ but, in the end, this season has a contemporary attitude to simplify and take away the ornamentalism and give freedom and romance to clothes."
Catherine Moellering, executive vice president of the Tobe Report, a fashion retail trend consultancy, sees a little more purpose to the historical reference, though.
"What was happening in society then is similar to many of the global issues we're facing right now: It was a difficult economy, we were involved in an unpopular war, there were environmental issues," Moellering observes.
But when it came to the clothes of that era, women were happy with their choices, she says, and the spring outfits that came down the runway have potential to appeal to a large audience.
In addition to the trousers, she expects shirtdresses, trenches, kaftans, printed scarves and floppy hats all to score well at retail.
And, says Tonchi, can't you just imagine the racks of long skirts at H&M?
Shoppers, in fact, don't have to wait for that to incorporate the trend into their existing wardrobe.
Color registers very quickly with consumers, Moellering says, so start wearing anything in tangerine, purple or orchid pink.
It doesn't matter if the wearer is too young to remember Lauren Hutton, Ali McGraw or Bianca Jagger in their style heydays, she adds. There are plenty of teens and 20-somethings who know their fashion iconography.
Certainly, Yves Saint Laurent's peasant collection was on the mind of many designers, which is familiar and relatable, and doesn't have too strong of an urban voice, which can be a turnoff to some, says Tonchi. From an editorial perspective, the look is eye candy because it's sexy and colorful, and lends itself to dramatic makeup and accessories, he says.
But strip away those things, and you'll find that the '70s influence is already on the street every day, says Bridget Foley, executive editor of Women's Wear Daily. It's the ethos of the modern wardrobe, she explains.
"When you see various retro things coming and going, the one with the greatest legs is the reference to the '70s," Foley says, noting that even the hippie looks so strongly associated with the 1960s actually went mainstream in the following decade. (The '70s working girl-disco style wasn't totally original, borrowing from the 1920s and '30s.)
"You take away the over-interpretation in hair and makeup, and those clothes make a lot of sense," she says. "They are clean, wearable and pretty."