Working women

Working women are going to enjoy dressing for spring. That's because styles are less restrictive than they've been before. Designers and manufacturers realize that most working women are beginning to dress the way they want to. Unless they're on Wall Street and the like, they're likely to ignore the few remaining fashion dictates.

The choices offered these days are greater than we've seen in several seasons - separates, chemises, dresses with matching jackets, mix-and-match suits, and pantsuits.

''Now that women have won their position in the marketplace, they can afford to dress the way they want to rather than how someone else expects them to,'' says designer Liz Claiborne.

''Being a working woman myself - one who has to dress quickly in the morning and one who doesn't love to shop - I relate to their needs,'' she adds.

Ms. Claiborne, considered the working woman's designer, recently launched ''double life'' clothes. The pieces include shirts that serve as jackets and shirtdresses that double as dusters. (Duster is the name used for coats this season.)

The Belgian-born designer began creating fashions back in 1976 when she couldn't find clothes at affordable prices that would take her through her life as wife, mother, homemaker, and working woman.

''I figured that other women had the same problem and that maybe I could help solve it,'' she says. (Her prices range from $33 for a shirt, to $40 for a skirt , to $84 for a chemise.)

Ms. Claiborne was photographed recently in one of her spring outfits. She was wearing a $50 white mesh sweater and $42 cropped pants.

Patti McCarthy, communications director at Evan-Picone, says, ''The clothes that will be worn by the working woman for spring will be more relaxed. The fashions are still very professional, but the woman's sense of individuality and confidence in self has translated into the way she's now putting herself together.''

For example, at an Evan-Picone working women's fashion seminar a labor lawyer said, ''I'm putting my business suit together in a more relaxed way. It's not the blouse and string tie look. Instead, I try to wear different types of blouses or lightweight sweaters.''

A young banker added, ''I'm wearing mostly dresses, but I treat them as separates. I often add a short jacket or a blazer to the dress. Or when I go out to dinner I wear a big scarf with the dress.''

Boston-based designer Alfred Fiandaca likes the look of dress and jacket for his executive women customers.

''I spend a great deal of time traveling and meeting these women,'' he says. ''It seems that a high percentage of the women go out to dinner from work. So the dress should be transitional in terms of dinner. The matching jacket can be added at the end of the day. Sometimes I do an organza jacket to be worn over a dress at night - even over a cotton.

''Women don't need clothes that say something,'' he continues. ''They can just be themselves.''

If you need to add a piece or two to your career wardrobe, consider the following:

* A spring/summer jacket. It can be done in one of the blends that has a linen look. (You'll be able to wear this over the things you already have in your closet.) If you can wear it, don't be afraid of a color such as peach. It will go with more colors than you might think - beige, gray, navy, etc.

* A special suit. It's fun to coordinate a white short jacket with a check skirt and a cotton sweater. The look is especially attractive when you mix different textures.

* A chemise. This style can be worn by women of all shapes and ages, providing the size is correct. Fashion experts are calling the chemise ''a woman's best friend for spring.'' They could be right.

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