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This offering for spring 2007 by Zac Posen incorporates a higher hemline and some volume without veering into the shapelessness that still scares off many style-seekers.


The phrase “voluminous minidress” is enough to put most women on edge, but there are even more intimidating words for one of spring’s top fashion trends. How about “trapeze,” “tent” or even “sack”?

Yes, those descriptions are scary, no question about it. But the dresses actually offer real possibilities, including the prospect of one item single-handedly updating your wardrobe.

So study the vocabulary, try on a few looks and learn to love the dress — it’s not likely to go away.

This is at least the second year in a row (four whole fashion cycles!) that dresses are at the top of the must-have list. Francisco Costa, creative director for Calvin Klein Collection, says that the 2000s are becoming the decade of the dress, much like the 1980s were for power suits.

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A loose-fitting Marc Jacobs frock for spring 2007.

Designer Anna Sui says this season’s “it” dress is built upon a very simple premise.

“It’s really a giant T-shirt that’s dressier, prettier and a little more feminine,” said Sui, who has made flirty frocks her signature look. On this day she’s wearing a black-and-white one with over-the-knee boots and chunky black-and-white jewelry.

“A lot of women are discovering the ease of it. You can pop it on, wear it with jeans, belt it or pop a sweater over it,” Sui said.

Sui hit on the key to carrying off the look: Dresses are part of an outfit — and that can mean layers, legwear, footwear and belts. Those are the tools that can take a dress from runway to reality.

Donna Wolff, operating vice-president and divisional merchandise manager of dresses, coats and swimwear at Bloomingdale’s, is turning 41 and just bought herself a sleeveless, turtleneck sweater dress by Laundry by Shelli Segal. She wears it with a long-sleeve T-shirt and skinny black pants. “I feel hip and fresh in it,” she said. “I’m not too old for this look.”

Wolff says hers is a paired-down A-line versus a trapeze. And, she adds, there are a lot of other silhouettes out there — including shirtdresses and empire-waist Grecian looks — it’s just that the trapeze captured all the headlines.

Length also is a big part of the story. “You see some dresses that are so short, you think people must be wearing it as a top. But there was a short dress on American Idol two weeks ago with blue mirrored paillettes. It was by BCBG,” recalled Wolff. “I’d wear that look with jeans. About three or four years ago, we started showing a layered look. Now the customer is used to it and they get it.”

It’s a similar situation at Saks Fifth Avenue, which tried to balance the mini trend with what the core customer feels comfortable with — usually a hem just above the knee, said senior fashion director Michael Fink. He envisions a lot of women treating dresses as a tunic top for spring.