Like a cool dip in a tropical sea, the strapless, the halter, and the camisole refresh the summer season. Now that theaters and restaurants are no longer frosty cold, the bare back or the uncovered shoulder can go it alone in the city or at the shore. For less temperate times, however, there are linen jackets or rough cotton knit sweaters.
It's also a sissy season, with a flirt of lace or a flounce of ruffle on dresses that can be as short as the knee or as long as the ankle. There are puffy little sleeves, shirred or gathered necklines, and ribbon sashes for girls who like romantic frills.
Some dresses have it all. For example, a subtle batik print with a round neck, tiny sleeves, and a tripe-tiered skirt. Another soft cotton shift in a batik design gathers across the bosom and then hangs loosely to the knee.
Lilly Pulitzer, the Florida designer known for hand-screened sunny prints, softens both long and short dresses with little lace-trimmed bibs or spaghetti straps. The skirts are either wrapped or ruffled at the hemline, or both.
A long salmon-colored print in a loosely knit polyester has a deep ruffle around the bodice, which can be worn off the shoulder or more modestly.
A short wraparound breakfast coat outlined in eyelet ruffles can be tossed over a bathing suit at noon and dressed up for lateday parties with a pair of high-heeled mules. It is available in a variety of lily prints in a bouquet of colors.
For easy, care-free traveling there are pliable polyester knit dresses with low V-neck lines from Un Ete Ensoleille. Both the long and short solid-color dresses have slits up the sides to ease the narrow line. There are separate little barely sleeved jackets in contrasting colors, which can be belted with the sashes from the dresses or worn loose. The collection at John Baldwin shops throughout the South also includes some printed wrap skirts and harem pants.
Even the women who cling to flashy white pants for evening will soften the look with silky blouses in sunset colors. Satin pants that narrow at the ankle are seen with broad-shouldered satin jackets to give an inverted spareness to the silhouette.
To keep cool from head to toe, there are straw hats and strappy sandals in jolting electric colors. But like all the new summer Southern fashions, the latest look is provocative but never aggressive.