The Top 5 Of 5
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Written and illustrated by Kathryn Martinez
Hey there!

Here in New York (the city so nice they named it twice!), the local office of Mother Nature, Inc. can't decide if it's winter, spring or summer. Well, put your concerns aside. The good news is that there are still many transitional pieces that will withstand these tantrums of sun and shower, wind and heat.

At Ann Taylor, the general theme is to incorporate a lightness and freshness to office wear. The ever clever Ms. Taylor achieves this excellently in her offerings to women this month.
Our first pick is this v-neck knit sweater with three-quarter length sleeves and a silky, stretchy fit, thanks to its viscose rayon/nylon fabric combo. The zigzag knitting pattern has created an overall netting effect that leaves a little peek-a-boo action -- great for displaying a contrasting tank top underneath. It's got a v-neck on the back as well, for some symmetry in terms of your comings and goings. It's available in rainy-day-gray-blue (which I recommend with a bright red tank top underneath), black, or white. $88.00.

Our next item is this 100% white linen skirt with a white silk flower appliqué. It's got a cut and paste, Origami Zen-ness to it, that is very girly yet edgy at the same time. $78.00.

Now we've got a 100% silk cardigan sweater in cream, with a trim of green v's that grow along the edges and cuffs like blades of grass. With a slight clingy nature, and only one hook & eye closure at the tip of the v-neck, this sweater, although very demure in its coloring, exhibits a balance of sweet and tart. $98.00.
Next up, a simply cut strapless dark denim dress, made of cotton with some spandex added to it for stretch. I like to describe it as uncompromisingly versatile because of its ease of wear, yet with just enough wow power for the eye. That is, no matter how it is combined with other items and accessories, due to its rather solid and basic shape, it can easily be dressed up, down, left or right without being mistaken for being anything other than what it is: a great little dress. $98.00.

For example, I've paired the denim dress with a bold and beautiful turquoise necklace to ornament it. It's a tasty piece of jewelry, with numerous strings of small blue beads, like ripened fruit still on the vine, twisted together like brambles of exotic berries. Yum! $60.00.

One look at Banana Republic's windows, and you can see that they no longer have WORK on their minds, but VACATION. Banana Republic is waxing up their surfboards, and getting ready for a surfing safari! The blue and white color patterns evoke a gauzy, breezy, day at the beach that is a welcome break from the hot pink of a few months ago.

For example, our first Banana Republic item is their scrunchie silk, sleeveless top, that is part nostalgic (think of a combination of a sea foam blue prom dress worn on some enchanted evening), and part Helmut Lang, with a modernistic, avant guard gauze bandage effect. Available in blue green, black, or gray. $54.00

I've paired it with these great linen pants, that have fuller cut legs (a relief from the boot cut leg silhouette). The pants have both a front zip and a drawstring waist for use as the cotton stretches out throughout the day, plus deep side pockets. Available in cream, black, or brown. $78.00.

Next up, a white 100% cotton button down in soft cotton, with a light floral pattern woven into it. It has three quarter sleeves with a horizontal strip of gathers on the elbow for a bit of tension-at-the-elbow, to contrast to the ease of the cut and the soft draping of the semi-sheer fabric. $68.00.

My next pick is what I call the "fairy girl scout skirt." It's a short, gray/green 100% cotton skirt with a shower of metallic olive green flowers printed on it. $68.00.

Our last BR pick is from the shoe department. Patent leather strappy sandals that are actually quite elegant, which is not usually something I'd associate with patent leather. Perhaps it's the little Sabrina heel, or the winding ankle straps; whatever it is, I like it! Available in black, white, or light blue. $98.00.
At the particular Gap I visited, there was a section in the back that contained their 1960's line. It was like an oasis in the midst of the vast and tired desert of khakis and the omnipresent bright sunset-colored Capri pants. Actually it was more like some mellow commune -- a neutral area where hippies, prairie girls, and flower children stylistically meet.

Exhibit A in my anthropological mapping of the Gap's layout is a candy cane-striped A-line denim skirt, with alternating light and dark denim strips. It's got that wacky disco-hippie thing going on, and comes in a versatile mid-calf length. $68.00.

Next we've got a white cotton petticoat ruffled skirt that is very Laura Ingalls, with eyelet trim. When worn under other skirts, like a true petticoat, it introduces an innocent and historical aspect to dressing that I find to be lacking in modern fashion. $48.00.

Now we've got a fitted, button-down shirt with three quarter length sleeves and copper snap buttons. It's got the solidity of a James Dean silhouette melded with the structure of a cowboy's denim shirt. And because it's made of cotton and spandex, it only looks stiffer than it actually feels when you're wearing it. Available in bright bright orange, blue denim, or dark blue denim. $58.00.

The last two items, which are great bags, compelled me to emigrate from the 1960's section into the Hell's Kitchen West Side Story area of the Gap.

The first pick is a simple apparatus -- a square linen pouch that closes when you pull on the drawstring straps. It can be found in lush color combinations like khaki with orange straps, red with brown straps, black with red straps, orange with neon orange straps, or lavender with blue string. $14.50.

The second and final pick is a tried and true essential for warmer weather: the straw bag. This one's great, because it's pretty roomy and is available with three possibilities for handles: fuchsia pink, white, or pale blue. $39.50.
Although I have been known to put down Donna Karen and her "New York Chic" empire, I have to admit that recently my heart has been warming up to her. Drawn to the bright, bright color palette displayed in her boutique windows, I found myself intrigued to go in, much like a moth to a flame. I was surprised to have found quite a few really cool items, like well-cut pants and interesting tops. And so, I have signed a personal peace treaty with Donna (for the time being), and with that, I give you my picks from her DKNY Jeans line:
The first item is this neo-preppy, 100% cotton sleeveless top. It's got a more fitted and stretchy midriff and, of course, a white DKNY logo sewn on the chest. Available in baby blue or light blue. $48.00.

Next are these way-cool white pants that are made of 100% cotton. They've got a flat-front waist and knee patches with zippers at the knees -- they unzip to reveal very 1980's athletic mesh knee patches. $82.00.

Then there's this olive green hoodie that's been shorn for the warmer weather. Its sleeves have been shortened into tiny caps, and it's got a zipper going down the middle. $69.00.

I've paired the abbreviated hoodie with these 100% cotton khaki pants, which have a typical slim fit, boot leg cut. However, if you like to wear your heart on your sleeve, and your money on you pant leg, then this is the pair of pants for you! There's a removable pocket that's attached to the pant leg by a zipper and two metal snaps, which is so great for going out when you don't want to deal with carrying a bag. $74.00.

My last DKNY Jeans pick is this dark denim jacket, which is just a little bit dirty, but dirty enough to receive a NC-17 rating on my dirty denim rating scale. Actually, it is the cut of this jacket that made it stand out from the fields of other denim jackets. It's longer, has a boxier cut, has one left breast pocket and two side pockets, and metal buttons that are hidden by a strip of dirty denim. $88.00.
POLO has always based its image on that whole sporty, WASP, all American thing, and I feel like that image shines best in the summer. The items that POLO Jeans have out do indeed support my perception of POLO, with young and active-friendly clothes in fabrics that will live through the entire summer.
First up, a stylish version of an army vest. It is 100% nylon, in an "all that it can be" army green, with a kooky pocket that's set on an angle. It's also hooded, but you can roll the hood up and fasten it down with the Velcro tabs that are found all around the collar, which is pretty nifty if you ask me. $68.00.
Because nostalgia is an enticing little bugger, this heather cotton/polyester top is the second pick. Riding on the kitschy, late 70's wave (the one Mariah Carey is perpetually on), this top has the styling of a Little League baseball tee that you've saved for all these years, and still refuse to throw away, because it's too soft and has too many memories -- except in this case you're playing on team POLO and have to pay $25 for you uniform! Available in either red heather or blue heather.

Next, we've got the hot denim short shorts in stretch denim. They're actually hip-huggers, which look not so ThongSongy (or Daisy Dukes) when you get them in a size that's not tooo tight, so that they fall on your hips. $48.00.

Our next item is a 100% cotton button down with three quarter length sleeves. It's really thin and soft, as if an oxford shirt had been hit with a mega dose of flower power and became an ultra soft shadow of its former self. Available in olive or salmon pink. $58.00.

Last but not least, a pair of denim Capris -- I doubt, and fear, that anyone will be able to get through the summer without a pair of Capris. These are pretty basic, except for the bright red stitching they've got, which catapults them back onto that wave and straight onto Mariah's refreshingly not-so-aerobicsized bum. $48.00.

Well, there we have them. I hope you enjoyed yourselves; I know I have! Hopefully the next time I write this article, I'll be sporting some hot new sandals and a slamming pedicure while I'm typing away. See you next month!
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