Romance is in the air! Designers are courting us with the most feminine fashions to sashay down the runways in quite some time. Frill seekers will find everything from laced-up peasant tops to lace-trimmed dresses, with tiers of ruffled blouses and billowy skirts in between.
Showing your softer side, however, takes some skill if you don't want to appear too prissy. In other words, if you look like Carmen Miranda or Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, you've gone too far. Here are some general guidelines to shop by:
Stick to body-skimming silhouettes. Fabrics that float over the body and silhouettes that accommodate (not cling to) curves are the most flattering.
If you've got it, flaunt it. This season's romantic fashions are all about showing some skin, so pick your best asset -- a swan-like neck, strong shoulders and back, gorgeous legs -- and play them up.
Don't go overboard. Too many frills and flounces can be overwhelming. Instead choose one fabulous piece -- a tiered skirt for example, and balance it with something simple, like a solid stretch tank.
We surfed for online finds that are sweet, chic and seriously sexy and found a range of romantic styles to fall in love with.
The look: It's all about draping-lightweight fabrics that flow, silhouettes that seem to accentuate every curve and one-shoulder and off-the-shoulder shapes that showcase skin.
Details that make the difference: Look for flutter sleeves, lace-up fronts, smocked hems, embroidery or lace trims.
Where to find it: If south-of-the-border influences are your style, try a mexicana peasant top, $30, by Delia's. It's split neck tie, smocked hem and sleeves and multicolored embroidery are as romantic as it gets. If you prefer your blouses long-sleeved, try Laundry by Shelli Segal's embroidered silk blouse made of whisper-soft silk chiffon, $145, or Laundry's smocked off-the-shoulder blouse, $135,. Visit www.nordstrom.com If you dare to go bare, Bisou Bisou's sexy lace camisole, $68, with its ribbon lace-up front, lace shoulder straps and lace trim, or Bebe's sash pointelle peasant top, with its puff sleeves, ribbed sash tie and ruffled scoop neck, $59, will drive admirers to distraction.
The look: Graceful shapes in gossamer fabrics, everything from diaphanous chiffon to cotton gauze.
Details that make the difference: Multiple tiers, hanky, ruffled, asymmetrical or scalloped hems and bias-cuts.
Where to find it: There's more than one way to skirt the issue this season, with plenty of alternatives to the plain-jane straight skirt that is a staple in just about everyone's wardrobe. For tiers of joy, try an A-line shape with a romantic twist like Pure Joy's tiered lace skirt with a scalloped hem, $174, a single broomstick-style no-waist skirt by Single with gathered ruffle details at the hem, $122, or a prairie-inspired, multi-tiered cotton skirt $174, by Allen B by ABS. To find all three, visit www.saksfifthavenue.com. If you've fallen head over heels for unusual hemlines, try an asymmetrical skirt with lace detailing by Bebe,$79, or a hanky-hemmed style with decorative ties, $39, by Delia's.
The look: Soft, soft, soft, from feminine fouces and frills to elegant floral prints.
Details that make the difference: Lace or scallop edging, asymmetrical hemlines, lace-up ties, empire or ruched bodices and puff sleeves.
Where to find it: Just about every dress department in fine online department stores now feature dresses with ruffles, lace and other flourishes. Some styles we found especially alluring include Bebe's denim tube dress, with its smocked bodice, full skirt and embroidery trim, $148, and Bebe's lace baby doll dress, with its empire waist and sheer lace insets, $118. For an extra-sweet treat, try Delia's strappy floral print dress with ruffled hem and lace-up front, $44.