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Looking ahead to clothes that are chic, cheerful and easy to wear

If it’s time to get serious about your summer wardrobe, the first piece of advice is this: Don’t get too serious.

This summer season is filled with casual dresses, breezy skirts, fun prints, bright accessories, floppy hats and other styles that may convince you that, yes, it’s time to lighten things up.

“Summer is all about sunshine and fun. The season is short, and nothing is too serious. Our summer wardrobe should show this as well,” said Marybeth Hallmark, a local image consultant.

Her tip: Pack away black basics and use white as your neutral for the season. Then add some color.

“Any bright worn with white amps up the ‘wow.’ It could be cobalt blue or vibrant purple, yellow or lime green. The more vibrant the better,” Hallmark said.

It can even be something neon. But if you like this bold look, limit it to one piece per outfit, she said.

Pops of color – neon or otherwise – can come in the form of a summer handbag or tote, for instance.

“No need to match your outfit. Skip black. Skip neutral. Grab a bag in a sunny, stand-alone color. Go directly for bright orange, pink or green, and make it your signature piece,” Hallmark said

“I’m telling my clients, no matter your size, think outside the mostly black box. Color can be fun, mood altering, therapeutic,” she added.

Here are a few trends to get you started dressing for the warm days ahead:

No ordinary stripes

The stripes hanging in your closet from seasons past may look like the new ones in stores, but it’s very likely they do not. That’s the funny thing about stripes. They always find a new way to appeal to those who adore them.

How so? For starters, some stripes are blatantly bold this summer. To further entice you, stripes also appear on items you may not expect them to, such as shorts and maxi skirts. And rather than having a dress with an overall narrow stripe like the one you bought a year or two ago, some new styles feature stripes in just one section or stripes of various widths on the same dress.

This season’s stripes “are bold, fun and show your playful nature,” said Deborah Tangelder, owner of the Perfect Gift Boutique in Clarence Center.

Red, orange and white stripes may come together in one outfit, especially on items such as tank-style maxi dresses. Even classic black and white stripes get a twist. “Instead of just horizontal stripes on a dress, I see them going diagonally. Or there may be a banding of stripes at the waistline,” she said.

White now

Yes, you’ll have to be careful slicing watermelon or sipping iced tea but, as Hallmark said, white can have an important spot in the summer wardrobe.

If you shop in the juniors’ or young contemporary departments, there’s no better place to start than with a white dress – often in eyelet or lace. Some are fitted and flared; others have that high-low hemline that’s still popular. The white dress craze moves into misses’ as well with crochet-lace sheath dresses, belted shirt dresses with roll-up sleeves, sleeveless cotton styles with wrap fronts and many more.

Lord & Taylor calls them LWDs – or Little White Dresses. Leelee in Williamsville hosted a Trina Turk all-white trunk show of dresses and more in May. Macy’s and other retailers offer many white dresses.

These dresses often are shown with pops of colors in the belt, bracelets or handbag, but they also work great with gold. Look, too, for the bold contrast of black and white – again with a touch of bright red or yellow. And white is a background color for floral and other prints, of course.

White denim also is getting a lot of attention, both in jeans and in items such as sleeveless vests or jackets. And for those looking for total coolness and comfort, white tunics are about as easy as you can get.

Pattern plays

On trend are tropical leaf patterns, abstract florals, crisp graphics and more, but it’s not just the patterns that catch the eye. It’s how they are used. A floral print one might expect to see on a dress may land on a pair of shorts, for example. Also expect to see some unique print mixes and quite bold patterns.

“There is a very strong influence of botanical florals that is moving our way from the West Coast,” Tangelder said.

As an alternative to a black or other solid-colored summer dress you may wear to a cocktail dinner or wedding, picture a vibrant red dress that mixes in botanicals of green stems and big flower blossoms, for example.

“It really makes such a statement. It’s both feminine and fashionable and fun for summer,” Tangelder said.

Another new collection to check out: the limited-edition Banana Republic Milly Collection for women and men (, a project between the retailer and Milly founder and designer Michelle Smith. The collection is said to be inspired by summertime in the Hamptons and is described as marrying “the iconic Banana Republic sense of modern style with Milly’s signature vintage-inspired prints and patterns.” Medallion and banana-leaf prints – as well as stripes – can be found on women’s dresses and shorts.

A few other trends:

• Sheer fabrics, often layered or tiered.

• Cropped tops of varying degrees, including some shown with high-waisted skirts.

• Platform wedges. Gladiators, still. Some Lucite heels. A lot of neutral shoes that won’t compete with outfits in fun patterns and bold colors.

• Rompers and jumpsuits – styles not limited to the juniors’ department.

• Polka dots and gingham checks.

• And, finally, cheerful umbrellas.

“It’s one of my favorite things to do on a soggy, dreary day: Make sure you use a bright, crazy pattern umbrella and laugh at the rain,” Hallmark said.