NEW YORK (AP) — It's still chilly in much of the country, but stores are clearing out coats and sweaters to make way for spring's bright colors and lighter clothing. And if you're looking to update your wardrobe this season, you'll need to know about a few key trends: crop tops, high waists and wider legs in pants.
But don't panic just yet about the idea of wearing a top that may not reach your navel. There are several ways to pull off the potentially midriff-baring trend — whether or not you have great abs, and even if you prefer to dress on the conservative side.
"Crop tops are not the easiest thing to wear," said Hayley Phelan, fashion features editor at Lucky magazine, acknowledging that skin-baring styles are not always "appropriate" for work or other situations. "But there are so many ways to wear crop tops that we saw on the runway and that we love at Lucky."
For example, you can layer a crop top over a blouse, Phelan said. Or wear a boxy crop top over high-waisted pants or a high-waisted skirt, and don't worry about revealing much skin.
"I would say a crop top is a must-have for spring," Phelan said. "But make it one that you feel comfortable in. With a boxier shape, you can wear it on multiple occasions."
Another strong trend Lucky editors noticed for spring is the "painterly print," meaning "bold, graphic brush strokes" and "art-inspired" designs, including portrait art and actual faces or flowers appearing on garments. "We saw faces at Prada and flowers at Dior," she said.
Finally, get ready for sandals and slides that are more hiker than fashionista — what Lucky editors call "the ugly shoe."
"It's that kind of Birkenstock shape, or even like Tevas," Phelan said. "But that's what's cool about it — fashionable people wearing a fashionable outfit that's put together, putting on these sandals."
Overall, she said, the silhouette for spring is evolving from past seasons: "It's a tighter more form-fitting top but looser on the bottom, with high-waisted baggier pants and wide-legged culottes. It's an interesting shape but what pairs perfectly with culottes is the crop top."
John Bourgeois, who directs personal shopping in the Midwest for Macy's By Appointment, said the region is definitely seeing the looser leg look. "Pants are a little softer this year," Bourgeois said. "The fabrication is very soft and flowy and whimsical."
But because Midwest weather stays cold longer, spring fashion isn't quite as bare as in warmer places. "Really trendy women find ways to incorporate jackets in their spring wardrobe because we have to layer here into May," said Farissa Knox, founder of the Chicago-based website What R U Wearing?
Moto jackets — short, slim-cut and zipper-front — are among Chicago's trendy spring items.
White button-down shirts were identified by both Dallas and Chicago retailers as a spring trend. In Dallas, it's a crisp look; in Chicago it's an element in layering. Fashion-watchers in both cities also say they're seeing black and white combinations in outfits.
Pink was cited as big for spring by retailers and shoppers in Dallas, Chicago and — maybe less surprisingly — in tropical Miami.
"Women should look for pink in every shade," said Ken Downing, fashion director of luxury chain Neiman Marcus, which has its flagship store in downtown Dallas. He added those varying shades of pink can be worn all in one outfit, and mentioned "denim on denim" — shirt, jeans and jacket in various washes — as another trend.
Exotic patterns — florals, animal prints and designs inspired by snakeskin and crocodile skin — are also turning up around the country, while colors range from pastels to brighter, more saturated hues. In Miami, exotic prints are even turning up on sneakers, and it's not unusual there to see men wearing the same bright colors and playful patterns as women.
"Men in South Florida are not afraid to wear prints or color," said Anabel Llopis, senior director of sales and marketing at Aventura Mall.
Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Suzette Laboy in Miami, Caryn Rousseau in Chicago and Beth J. Harpaz in New York contributed to this story.