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Rain check
Gear up in style for the soggy days ahead

Raindrops kept falling on our heads this week -- a reminder that the arrival of spring means more drizzles and downpours, sprinkles and showers and, of course, snow mixed in at any time.

It's also a reminder that proper rain gear is a very good thing. Raincoat. Umbrella. Maybe even some rain boots.

A black raincoat for women is quite practical in these parts, but those looking to add some color to dreary days will not be disappointed.

*Among the latest season's trends: "A lot of white, pale pinks and pale blues," said Tracy Coene, vice president of Park Avenue Coat Co., an off-price retailer with locations at 2300 Hamburg Turnpike, Lackawanna, and 144 William St.

*What also stands out: "We're seeing awesome details on the sleeves, collars, buckles and buttons," she said.

The belted trench continues to be popular, and the length of the year is just above the knee. This length works as well with jeans on weekends as it does with dress pants and pencil skirts during the work week.

So the coat worn for business also can go casual, Coene said.

*One tip: Before selecting any raincoat, consider your lifestyle. If your outings mostly involve dashing in and out of the car, you may not require the same type of serious rain gear you would if you walk to the supermarket or take the dogs for long walks in every type of weather (hoods and zippers are handy here).

And if you need to look decent for the office, you'll want a raincoat that looks far better than something you take on fishing trips.

Think trendy and waterproof.

Some fashion trends:

*Bright colors: This spring, clothing and rainwear colors are on the bright side, according to Suzanne Bryant, vice president Lands' End design, in a trends release. Vibrant hues include orange and yellow or brilliant versions of blues and greens.

*Earthy hues: If you prefer a more subdued color, soft or dark greens, dark brown, tan and black will take you far.

*Trench styles: Always a classic but, again, very big for spring. Choose from single or double-breasted styles. Belted -- or not.

*Hoods: Face it -- on miserable days, they come in handy. Some are removable.

*Slimmer shapes. Goodbye boxy. Slim is the silhouette for spring.

*Details: Metal hardware gives raincoats an edge. So do flared sleeves. Contrast linings jazz things up even more. Functional details include such things as cinch cuffs, adjustable hoods, inner pockets, storm flaps and grommets for ventilation.

Some raincoats even fold up into pouches. Not a bad idea for keeping at the office or in the car. Just in case.

Some fabrics are waterproof. Others are treated to resist wind, rain and sometimes wrinkles. And some fabrics are more breathable than others.

Look, too, for thin linings or thicker ones that can be zipped in or out as needed.

Among the new offerings:

L.L. Bean describes its midthigh-length West End Trench Coat as "street-ready styling with trail functionality." It's fashioned from a breathable waterproof fabric and layers well over skirts and dress pants. Choose from black, deep raspberry, silver birch or lapis blue.

And Lands' End's SunShower raincoat is made from waterproof polyester microfiber -- "sanded" for extra softness. It comes in desert khaki, black and navy but also in brighter shades of chili pepper and orange spice as well as an all-over floral in navy or fern green.

Variations include the SunShower rain jacket (shorter than the raincoat), rain parka (draw-cord waist, below hip length) and rain trench (belt).

But the raincoat is just part of your rain-fighting gear. Check out the season's selection of deliriously happy colors and prints on umbrellas.

And note, too, that rain boots have become a staple in many shoe departments. These come in many colors and patterns -- from bold and bright to subtle and more sophisticated.

Come on, don't you wish you had a pair earlier this week?


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