Dancing past winter: Designer Tracy Reese puts fresh spin on spring fashion

February 9, 2015

A Tracy Reese print blouse, skirt and coat from her spring 2015 collection.

In the dead of winter, designer Tracy Reese can always be counted on to revive womenís senses with sun-bathed colors, fresh prints and breezy silhouettes.

Those celebratory signatures are one reason her two lines, Tracy Reese and its bohemian little sister Plenty, are a favorite of Anthropologie shoppers in any season. Reese counts first lady Michelle Obama as a client, too.

"I always love designing for spring because itís such an optimistic season," Reese said.

Optimism permeates all of her output of late. She is adding a Plenty dress line and launching handbags for fall. Her new eau de parfum ($68) just debuted at Anthropologie. Soon Reeseís spring designs will arrive at Nordstrom and other stores, from a runway collection that one critic called her most powerful to date.

That show opened not with a flouncy lace dress but a fluid all-black ensemble consisting of a silk to-the-floor trench and pants over a ballerina leotard. It wasnít so much a departure as a personal reference.

"This collection was inspired by dance, specifically Martha Graham and modern dance," Reese said. "My mom was a modern dance teacher, and my aunt is also a professor of modern dance at Wayne State in Detroit. Itís something Iíve always been surrounded with and appreciated."

She wanted to bring pieces inspired by a dancerís wardrobe, in their downtime, into everyday dressing.

"We looked at, how do you make that look not like sweats, but something chic yet comfortable that you can integrate into your wardrobe?" Reese said.

Reese didnít swear off exuberance, showing floral coats and a strapless evening gown in flamingo pink. But in a nod to comfort, the gown sported pockets and was paired with flats.

"When I dress for evening, I always feel like Iím some other person, and I hate that feeling," she said. "We showed the entire collection with flat shoes because I was sick of being in agony, and I canít be myself when Iím not comfortable. If youíre wearing a full-length gown, no one knows if youíre wearing heels or flats."

It helps if youíre 5 foot 7, like Reese is, or taller.

"But I think we each have to embrace our real selves," she said. "Iíve got big hips, and Iíve got to love that about me, just as a petite woman has got to love being petite, because thereís not a lot she can do to change that. Youíve got to look at your petite advantages!"

Speaking of which, retailers are ordering more petite size ranges from brands after all but abandoning them in the past decade.

"That business is through the roof," Reese said. "We started doing petite with a few of our retailers, and itís a huge business. One reason is that, even if you arenít vertically challenged, you might be a little shorter shoulder to waist, and petite cuts might fit you better. Itís a runaway success story. Iím hoping it will spread into some larger sizes as well."



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