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Inspiration

Spring Fashions 2024: Colors, Textiles, and Designs

Sew a wardrobe that brings you lightness and joy
Threads #225, Spring 2024

People say that art and fashion provide a reflection of, or reaction to, what is going on in the world at large. This spring, nostalgia—as well as a longing for things never known, like world peace or truly inclusive societies—continues to be a powerful influence on the fashion industry. The 1990s, with their “come as you are” sensibility, were an undeniable influence in street-style and runway shows during fashion month.

From a somber view . . .

This looking back carries with it a certain yearning for an idyllic time that never really existed: We just like to believe it did. To many, the world seems to be growing more divisive and dangerous than ever. Wars, conflicts, and staggering losses of human life populate our news feeds. Those of us in Northeast America witnessed what could only be likened to an apocalyptic darkening of the skies as smoke from Canadian wildfires made their way south last summer. Record-breaking heat waves imperiled lives throughout the Southwest. At times, it seems as if humanity as a whole has learned nothing.

. . . to a spark of light

All these factors are reflected in the current spring and summer fashion trends as designers, influencers, celebrities (and, perhaps all of us) search for illumination in a world of darkness. As is always the case at times like these, venturing outside the box and toward people, ideas, and cultures different from our own may well be the key to figuring out how to bring some hope and lightness into our worlds.

I recently interviewed Dr. Alexandra Solomon, host of the Reimagining Love podcast, and the author of the book Love Every Day (PESI Publishing, 2023). We talked about a range of topics centering around relationships and families. One thing she said that struck me was that Gen Z folks (ages 11 to 26) have “creative imaginings of what family and partnership looks like.” She told me that she sees this as an exciting time in which adaptive family structures form for all kinds of reasons: Traditional and nontraditional are becoming mainstream. I think these same ideas and influences are showing up in the fashion world, in how we view gender and what is considered “acceptable” dress. And I think we are smack dab in the middle of all kinds of creative reimaginings.

A trend toward joy

As I was surveying the upcoming season’s trends, I found that they were less about fixed styles, and more about the vast potential of creativity and individuality. The folks at indie pattern company VikiSews told me that, while they closely monitor the runway shows, they use them only as a jumping-off point. “We draw inspiration from various elements like silhouettes, fabrics, and detailing,” they wrote me in an email. “This allows us to create unique patterns that not only reflect modern ideas but also have a longevity of three to four years in terms of trend relevance. They are unique creations in their own right.”

When sifting through online pattern offerings, I found myself gravitating toward indie and Etsy-based pattern designers and have included numerous options from them in the listings that follow. I believe they support the concepts of reimagining conventional norms and celebrating all things light, joyful, and hopeful. If all that sounds naïve and lofty, the pessimist in me agrees. Still, as long as there are passionate and inspired designers and creators in the world, I believe all is not lost. There is still hope.

Perhaps that is the overall theme for spring and summer 2024: hope.


Soft, Glowing Colors

Pale yellow, lemon drop yellow, and primary yellow were everywhere on the spring/summer runway shows.

color swatches

Other trending colors include cool pastels and muted shades in the gray and brown/tan families, along with pops of brilliant white. Pantone colors rooibos tea, an earthy red, and orangeade, a dark tangerine, provide contrast to the softness of the neutrals. The team at design studio VikiSews mentioned all shades of red, especially those leaning toward magenta, as well as total black and total gray.

color swatches

Fine, Light Fabrics

This year, typical warm-weather fabrics go a degree or two lighter. Textures, prints, and surface treatments focus on airiness and luminosity.

green fabric swatches blue and purple fabric swatches

Textiles for the season include metallics such as gold, silver, and bronze. Plus, there are all manner of sheers such as chiffon, organdy, organza, tulle, and lightweight, delicate cottons in solids and beautiful, intricate floral prints. Cottons, silks, and linens in solids make luxurious, timeless wardrobe staples.

beige fabric swatches
The season’s trending colors appear in textiles from sheers to linens to denim and twill. Prints bring in pleasing motifs from nature. Swatches: MoodFabrics.com.

Open-weave materials with slashes or shredding were present in evening and formal dresses and in more casual streetwear looks. If you’re adept at crocheting, this is your season: Consider making openwork pieces to go with your sewn garments. You may also find crochet-look fabrics available as yardage.

yellow and orange fabric swatchesGender Fluidity

It’s time to imagine fashion beyond “his” and “hers.” You’ll have more fun finding your unique style if you look at the full range of designs available.

Though gender fluidity and nonbinary fashion have existed throughout history, younger generations today continually challenge socially imposed gender boundaries. Contemporary media and social platforms such as Instagram and TikTok offer an opportunity for the unprecedented visibility of gender-nonconforming dress and expression.

Hedi Slimane at Celine continued his commitment to androgynous tailoring as did other designers like Maison Margiela, Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, and Miu Miu.

Vintage 1990s Issey Miyake designs, published by Vogue Patterns, are especially suitable for this trend, if you can find them. Look to Etsy shops such as Etsy.com/shop/Vintagepatterns2sew.

The following separates patterns offer a relaxed twist on classic pieces such as collared shirts and pull-on pants. Mix, match, and layer garments according to your preference.

drawing of model
Relaxed layers offer options for comfort and personal expression. Riana Blazer, VikiSews; pants, Vogue 1891; Minimalist Shirt, TropicalResearch.

Patterns to try

Tops and jackets

Front Pleat Shirt from The Assembly Line: short-sleeved, cropped shirt with two angled front pleats

Ilford Jacket from The Friday Pattern Co.: a shirt-style jacket with sleeve and pocket options; for chests to 60 inches and hips to 63 inches

Lobethal Shirt from Muna and Broad: a dramatically oversized button-front shirt with sleeve bands, a jewel neckline, and side pockets; for sizes up to 64-inch bust and 71.5-inch hips

McCall’s 7818: unisex lined blazer with front vertical darts and back princess seams

Minimalist Shirt from TropicalResearch: oversized unisex shirt with tapered sleeves and dropped shoulders

Phen Shirt from PatternFantastique: batwing variation on a classic shirt, with three collar options

Riana Blazer from VikiSews: semifitted blazer with tie belt

Vernon Shirt from Cashmerette: a classic button-front shirt with two sleeve options. Includes sizes up to a 62-inch bust and hip

Vogue 1784: asymmetrical shirts with layered collar, pocket, and tuck details

Bottoms

Barry Woven Pants from Style Arc: pull-on pants with a balloon-leg shape; for hips up to 70 inches

Lazy Pants from TropicalResearch: unisex, tapered jogger-style pants for wovens and knits

Ensembles

Cara Tunic and Pants from Tina Givens: sleeveless tunic with handkerchief hem, paired with lantern-silhouette pants with appliqué details

Vogue 1891: voluminous jacket with hood and lantern sleeves; drapey pull-on pants

Sheer Modesty

Sheer layers were a dominant theme in spring/summer runway shows. These looks included garments made from fabrics with cutouts, slashing, crochet, and other openwork materials. They consisted of anything to create a light, airy silhouette, giving the impression that the wearer was floating on a cloud or ray of light. Imagine extravagantly gathered tulle layers and enough gossamer to camouflage the body underneath. The use of sheers did not bend toward the risqué but arced in the opposite direction, to ethereal femininity.

Rosettes, petals, floral appliqués, and bows added whimsical details to frocks suitable for fairy princesses or wood nymphs. The world may be burning but there’s no reason we can’t aspire to rise from the ashes—and bring beauty and light as we do. For any of the patterns below, look for sheer printed fabrics, with and without texture. And don’t forget to consider mesh, lace, and sheer layers.

Many designers also added feathers to their creations which may not be easy to replicate. I mention it as an abstract idea to keep in mind when choosing fabrics and patterns for your creations. In keeping with the “hope” theme, it reminds me of a line written by poet Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

semisheer fabric on drawing of model
Experiment with artistic patchwork in semisheer fabrics. Elysia Dress, Roberts Wood.

Patterns to try

1927 Cloud Cape from Decades of Style: a shirred, straight-fitting cape with a puffy collar; try it in taffeta for a lightweight statement piece

Capulet Dress from Stitch Witch: a minidress with large, puffed sleeves, fitted bodice, and gathered skirt; lengthen and/or layer the skirt; sized for busts up to 58 inches and hips to 60 inches

Elysia Dress from Roberts Wood: patchwork dress with a bow motif, full skirt, and voluminous sleeves; modern and romantic, ideally suited to sheer fabrics such as lawn, voile, or organza

McCall’s 8110: tiered sheer dresses with sleeve and length variations

Romey Gathered Dress from Sew House Seven: raglan-sleeved with raised waistline, long, full sleeves, and full skirt; for busts up to 61.5 inches and hips to 65 inches

Roseclair Dress from Cashmerette: wrap dress with two sleeve lengths; knee-length skirt or tiered maxi option; for busts and hips to 62 inches

Rosette Dress from Tina Givens: midi-length dress with deep scoop neckline, sheer overlay, and fabric flower embellishment

Sandeep Dress from By Hand London: a fit-and-flare style with two-layered skirt and wide sleeves; available up to bust size 65-3 ⁄ 4 inches and hips 67-3 ⁄ 4 inches

Sheer Tie-front Dress from Kiana Bonollo Designs: open-front minidress meant to be worn over other garments; perfect for patterned sheers

Vogue 1820: asymmetrical top with or without sleeves, paired with a layered skirt

Yesterday Dress by Caramiya: dress with scooped neckline, narrow straps, raised waistline, and full skirt; for busts up to 60 inches, hips to 62 inches

Alt Brides, Mermaids, and Corset Lacing

For spring and summer, special-occasion looks have volume plus waist-defining features. Whether you’re the center of attention or a supporting character, tap into your favorite vein of enchantment.

Alternative brides and formalwear were prominent runway trends. Designers like Saint Laurent, Maison Margiela, Rick Owens, and others sent black suits embellished with tulle and voluminous shrouded creations down the runway. There were just as many diaphanous white iterations of the formal dress. Some fashion commentary suggested that the prominence of black was an acknowledgment of the human condition of being perennially earthbound. The abundance of tulle and luminous gowns was, again, a nod to the quest for light and the equally present (though never attained) human desire for flight. People do not, after all, have wings.

The mermaid silhouette follows along with this line of yearning for—and celebrating the possible existence of—magic. At least, that’s how I see it. Corset detailing, much of it not entirely functional, adds texture while also providing a sort of anchor to an otherwise floating, swirling cloud of fabric. Metallics were everywhere as well.

formal dress on drawing of model
Pair corset structures with ethereal fabrics like tulle for fanciful formal dresses. Isabelle dress, VikiSews.

Patterns to try

Bryant Gown from Charm Patterns: princess-line design with sleeve options, V-neckline, highly fitted waist, and mermaid flounce at the hem; up to size 34, for busts to 62 inches, hips to 64 inches

Corset Jumpsuit from Studio of Art Patterns: unusual jumpsuit with corset-style bodice and bust cups, laced back, and flared legs with cargo pockets

Gia Dress from Tina Givens: asymmetrical, layered dress, with or without sleeves; try leaving frayed edges for an ethereal effect

Isabelle Dress from VikiSews: this ultrafeminine gown is made of tulle, with a sheer corset bodice, draped sleeves, and a floor-length skirt

Marfy 6991: gown with corsetlike front inset and laced back, A-line skirt; intended for lace and sheers

McCall’s 7569: a mermaid-silhouette gown with halter neckline; other options include a column skirt in two lengths, bateau neckline, and bodice with long, flounce-trimmed sleeves; for knits

Ornella Dress from VikiSews: a striking columnar dress with a boned bodice, fluted bust cups, and a fishtail train

Simplicity 9134: Knee- or tea-length dress shaped with released pleats in the front and back panels; sleeveless or short puffed sleeves

Simplicity 8289: V-neck dress, mid-length or maxi, with open-back bodice and optional tulle drapes over the skirt

Vogue 1885: reissue of a 1966 dress design, a strapless gown or cocktail-length dress gathered below the bust in front, with a Watteau-style back; may have a sheer overlay

Blazers and Business Core

For those who are working in the office full- or part-time, work style has loosened up without going fully casual. Creative combinations enable you to develop a signature look that’s as sharp or edgy as you like.

“Business core” style blends masculine and feminine pieces to create an updated, individual style. It combines “classic” officewear with streetwear elements. Think a tailored, button-front, collared shirt with utility or cargo pants; a trim pencil skirt paired with an elevated, funky version of a button-front shirt; or a shirtdress with a cropped blazer. The options are literally endless.

As the VikiSews team described it, “We’ll be playing with the office aesthetics outside the office environment. Suits, ties, suiting fabrics, business chic. This trend makes a lot of sense as it reflects social patterns. During the pandemic, we were wearing leisure clothes when we had to work. Now we lean toward businesswear, even though many still can or choose to work remotely.”

Oversized blazers and jackets showed up in many collections. I like to think this has something to do with the Talking Heads rereleasing their 1984 concert film, Stop Making Sense, but it may be a case of art and fashion moving independently in the same direction. Monochrome suiting, especially in white, is a popular trend.

formal style outfit on sketched model
A creative combination of fitted pencil skirt with an unconventional blouse and ample coat can update your work look. Theodora Coat, Tina Givens; Zoe Pencil Skirt, Style Arc; Asymmetric Shirt, Patterns by Lucia.

Patterns to try

Asymmetric Shirt from Patterns by Lucia: popover blouse with wide collar and diagonal opening placket

Crop Jacket and Palazzo Pants from Studio of Art Patterns: very short, notched-collar jacket with ties that wrap around the midriff; wide-legged pants with double waistband

Free Range Slacks from Sew House Seven: elastic-waist slacks with wide or tapered leg, slant front pockets, and side panels; for hips to 65 inches

McKenzie Blazer and Pant from Style Arc: oversized, double-breasted jacket and slightly flared pants; both for busts to 58-1 ⁄ 4 inches, waists to 50-1 ⁄ 2 inches, and hips to 61 inches

Meadowood from Straight Stitch Designs: oversized blouse with front and back yokes, elbow-length dolman sleeves, a V-neck, and button front; for busts to 59-1 ⁄ 2 inches and hips to 60 inches

Denim, Aprons, and Skirts Over Pants

The workwear and utilitarian trend showed up in the way of denim-on-denim ensembles, apron-like pinafore dresses (and overalls), as well as a return to the skirt-over-pants look of the early 2000s. As a regular bike commuter, I have long appreciated the practical aspects of that look. The trends in this category overlap and blend with other categories, so you can easily incorporate them all into your personal style.

a pinafore over jeans look on sketched model
Cover all the bases with a pinafore over jeans, topped with a casual jacket. Smith Jacket and Carlisle Jeans, Style Arc; Leo Pinafore Dress, By Hand London.

Patterns to try

Apron Dress from Assembly Line: pinafore-style dress with crossed back straps, A-line skirt, and large patch pockets

Butterick 6800: classic jeans in five styles

Carlisle Jean from Style Arc: traditional straight-legged jeans with contoured waistband; for hips to 61 inches, waists to 50-1 ⁄ 2 inches

Cozette Dress from Allis Patterns: dress with fitted bodice, tie shoulder straps, and a full skirt with panels gathered at different levels

Foreman Jacket from Merchant & Mills: unlined, boxy jacket with patch pockets

Gathered Tunic from Beauté J’adore: below-knee-length tunic with draped front detail and high slit

Leo Dungarees and Pinafore Dress from By Hand London: overalls and jumper with plenty of ease, and fast to make; in unisex sizing up to 66-inch chests and 69-inch hips

Margo Dress from Merchant & Mills: jumper with traditional overall bib front

Rainhaven Overalls from Twig and Tale: utilitarian overall design intended for waterproof fabrics; available in kids’ sizes

Simplicity 9595: quick and easy-to-sew 1970s wrap pants

Smith Woven Jacket from Style Arc: waist-length chore-style jacket with chest pockets, concealed button closure, and inverted back pleat; for busts up to 58-1⁄4 inches

Vogue 1869: off-the-shoulder tunic with wide collar and deeply slanted hemline, over wide-leg pants

Bold Denim Inspiration

One of my favorite local New York City designers, Keith Kelly, creates utilitarian looks made from cotton denim fabric with his original floral and fruit prints. Though he does not yet sell yardage of his florals, his is a great site to look at for inspiration: a perfect blending of workwear with an unexpected flair, in gender-neutral styles (KeithKelly.co). He’s a prime example of everything I admire and respect about the younger generation of creators and makers.

 


–Vanessa Nirode is a freelance writer and a patternmaker and tailor for television and film.

Photos: Mike Yamin.

Illustrations: Steven Fleck.

Color chips: courtesy of Pantone Color Institute.

From Threads #225

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