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Long, longer, longest
The spring forecast calls for dropped hemlines, wider-leg pants - and some tips on wearing them

Short skirts and skinny jeans of seasons past have some competition this spring.

Hemlines that hit below the knee or longer are back with vengeance. So are pants with wider legs.

Add to that some dazzling prints, super-soft fabrics and bits of shimmer and, well, who isn't ready to say so long to layers of wool and piles of fleece?

That's not to say that an above-the-knee sheath dress can't be found. It can. Nor is the slim cropped pant going away.

"You're still going to see the slim pant, and you're still going to see the legging. It's just that the accent is on the wide-leg pant, and you're going to see it in all kinds of fabrics," said Liz Lennon, vice president of Danahy's in Amherst.

"It's not just the wider leg; it's the higher waistband, too. It's very flattering," she added.

Such long, fluid looks in pants and skirts have people talking.

What Lennon likes about the longer-length skirt is its versatility.

Find one in a seasonless fabric and you can wear it in cold weather with boots and in warm weather with sandals, she said.

The latest crop of dresses and skirts also includes pleated, pencil, flared and asymmetrical styles as well as flowing maxis, which women have seen in previous seasons.

It all may take some experimenting.

As an example: "If someone is petite, averaging 5-foot-3 or under, she has to do it proportionally," said local image consultant Marybeth Hallmark.

Her tip for petites: Invest in alterations.

An off-the-rack long skirt -- not from the petite department -- will likely be dragging around the ankles. Altering it to fit properly is the key, Hallmark said.

Hallmark also likes the look of the wider-leg pant for spring and offers a few wardrobe tips.

"As you go into a wider pant leg, the pieces need to relate to each other," she said.

Footwear, for one, needs to be complementary. Avoid something too clunky, such as clogs.

"Depending on whether it is a casual look or something more sophisticated, you can go with either a strappy sandal or a higher heel -- something more streamlined. You want something that shows the foot more, whether it's a heel or a flatter shoe," Hallmark said.

"You also don't want anything too overpowering on the top," she said.

This look is the reverse of the skinny bottom/billowy top combo so popular in seasons past. Often, it's also a more sophisticated look that goes into the office environment easier than, say, jeggings and tunics, Hallmark said.

"So if you're doing a wide-leg pant, maybe wear a silk blouse tucked in and belt the pants. You want to balance the wide-leg pant with a streamlined top so that the pant is the focus," she said.

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Other trends:

Stripes: Navy and white. Crisp. Clean. Nautically inspired, sometimes boldly so.

To try: A navy-and-white ensemble with a bright handbag, red or yellow for a punch of color, suggested Danahy's Liz Lennon.

Bold patterns: Florals, botanicals, graphics, ikat, animal prints -- they're all out there.

To try: A boldly patterned sheath or short-sleeved dress, possibly with some draping. Be exuberant.

Lace and crochet: It can be a detail or an all-over effect. Open weaves reign. The look is very airy and ethereal.

To try: A crochet cardigan in taupe or sage worn over a black tank with black pants and a great necklace. Switch to a white tank and pants in summer, Lennon says.

Shimmer: Easy does it. Soft shimmer is the look for spring, be it a tank or skirt.

To try: Mix things up a bit by pairing a shimmery tank with cropped utility pants.

Dressy shorts: Not for everyone but definitely a trend. Some come patterned, some even in lightweight leather.

To try: Shorts with a feminine top and spring-weight trench. Mix patterns if you dare.