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Not-so-basic basics; Fashion staples get a fresh spin for spring and summer

Come spring and summer, women want to dress comfortably and be comfortable with what they wear. That's why many fall back on the same warm-weather staples year after year. Basic T-shirts. Cropped pants. Cool skirts. Comfortable sandals.

Not that any of these have to be boring. Some are timeless. Others emerge each season in irresistible new colors or interesting twists in styling.

Remember the ruffles craze a few seasons back?

For those looking to add a few new pieces to their wardrobes, here's a look at what we see happening with some familiar favorites:

*Summer pants: Last summer you lived in your white capris. This year, if you're ready to live it up a bit, you can pop into a pair of patterned pants. It might be a straight-leg crop pant in a multicolored floral print. An ikat pattern. Even a zebra print.

This look isn't for every woman. But if it entices you, this is the year to go for it because there are so many options out there.

And need we mention that colorful jeans -- and jean shorts -- are a shopping trip away?

*Maxi skirt/dress: This perennial favorite can make some waves when it takes on a high/low hemline -- longer in back, shorter in front.

(Variations of this look also can be found on shorter skirts and dresses as well as on tops.)

Prefer the traditional maxi skirt? Update the look by pairing a solid-colored skirt with a solid top in another color to create the season's popular color-blocking effect. Feeling bold? A belt can even introduce a third color. Combine teal, blue and citrine. Or pink and orange with a touch of turquoise.

*White T-shirt: This short-sleeve summer staple is getting some competition from lace and open-stitch tops. These can be worn over neutral or brightly colored tanks or camis, as well as under a variety of layering pieces. Look for scalloped edges, hemlines that dip in the back, plenty of white and ivory but also some colors.

Look for sheer shirting -- also meant for layering. The Coldwater Creek catalog shows a sheer windowpane jacquard fitted blouse worn unbuttoned over a white tank and denim crop pants -- "cotton at its coolest."

*Flowy tops: Popular in recent seasons, tunics and other tops in breezy fabrics have been embellished, belted, jazzed up in bold prints and fashioned with bat-wing and other interesting sleeves. This season, you'll also see them in styles that bare -- or partially bare -- one shoulder.

The one-shoulder look shows up in swimwear, dresses and gowns, too.

*Sandals: After months of wearing sensible footwear, fun is something you want in a spring and summer shoe. This season, designers mix it up with shoes with plain uppers but patterned bottoms. Picture a wedge sandal with brown straps atop a striped platform heel.

*Floppy hats: There's always a spot in the summer wardrobe for a big-brim hat, including crushable styles you can stuff into luggage or a beach bag. Natural tones are nice, but what's catching our eye this spring are the striped and color-blocked big-brim hats.

Worth noting is that some hats carry a rating for sun protection, such as the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) 50 hats from the Wallaroo Hat Co. ( These are made from a fabric that blocks close to 98 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays.

*Itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini: Even if one of these isn't in your dresser drawer -- or on your shopping list -- this and other retro looks have evolved into the 21st century.

It goes far beyond bikinis. As part of the retro trend, also look for high-waisted bottoms, ruffled one-pieces, gingham checks and, of course, polka dots.

Which way to the beach?