Styling moms

It’s this season’s ultimate feel-good fashion tip: You don’t need an $800 handbag to be stylish.

Your husband might have believed this all along, but now he can say Nina Garcia agrees. And Nina Garcia should know—she’s the style director for ELLE Magazine, a judge on Bravo TV’s fashion design reality competition"Project Runway” and the author of the bestselling lifestyle guide, The Little Black Book of Style.

Garcia, who recently appeared at Macy’s on State Street to promote her book, sat down with Chicago Parent to share her thoughts on what summer styles work best for busy moms. (A 12-month-old son keeps her on her toes.)

To anyone thinking about sinking money into an overpriced, over-logoed satchel, Garcia had this to say:"Buying the‘IT’ bag for the season is not style. Style is about finding what works for you, it’s about being a fashion leader.”

That’s her approach to personal style."Have fun with fashion, find out what your style is,” she says."The most stylish women in our times made their own rules.”

Yet there are certain trends set to take over this spring and summer that Garcia feels are not just fun, they’re also"user-friendly,” an element she deems"most important for moms.”

Garcia’s fave? The multi-strap, multi-buckle gladiator sandal."You can run around in the gladiator sandal, you can do it with dresses or pants—I love it in silver, gold, metallics—and it will even come into fall.”

When it comes to garments—and fabrics in particular—Garcia says"the big news is flower print and bold color.” Bright hues might be a reaction to predictions of recession, she speculates, but whatever the reason, the underlying theme is optimism. That translates into a color palette ranging from simply loud to downright neon.

Florals will also be blooming this season, says Garcia. And these designs definitely don’t look like anything covering your Granny’s couch."It’s not necessarily sweet floral, it’s bold and sleek and mixed with other strong prints, beading, even other flower prints,” she says. Pairing prints isn’t for the faint of fashion, but Garcia notes that when Belgian fashion designer Dries van Noten sent his models down the Paris runway in various mixes of floral, ethnic and leaf-like prints, it was impossible not to love the look.

Not sure you’re ready to rock a head-to-toe trend? No worries. Garcia suggests starting small."Take the basics that you have in your wardrobe and add the excitement through accessories like a cocktail ring or a scarf.”

And yes, even a handbag.

How to wear it Chicago-style

Gladiator sandals

Gravitating towards the glad? Just remember that ankle straps aren’t for everyone."If you’re self-conscious about your ankles, stick to the sandals that have thinner or lower straps,” says R.J. Mac, manager of Akira Shoes on State Street, which boasts a terrific selection of gladiators priced from $59-$109. And if you see a style you like, buy it now, he says. These sandals are so in demand that he’s already had to reorder many styles.

Bold colors

“To wear the bright colors, you really have to be confident,” says fashion maven Simone Gensburg, owner of Simone’s Boutique in Winnetka. Among the favorites on her shelves this season are shocking pink dresses from New York City fashionista-turned-designer Dorian May ($1,200) and a greeny-yellowy tank from Canadian Jeremy Laing ($484). When working with brights, she suggests keeping everything else simple. With tops, jeans are OK as are pants in black or white, and accessories can be as basic as a great shade of lipstick. These colors, she says,"stand on their own.”

Mixing prints

When putting different prints together, Chicago wardrobe advisor and personal shopper Heather Kenny suggests keeping scale in mind."One pattern should be larger than the other,” she says."So you could do pants with narrow pinstripes with a top with a medium-size floral pattern.” Blending three patterns is kind of tricky, Kenny warns, but not impossible:"The scale should be different for each and there should be one color pulling all of them together.”

Jenny B. Davis

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