NEW YORK – This summer is all about melding the two major styles of the 1980s — conservative preppy and funky punk rock — into one modern look.
According to the fashion experts, the best way to accomplish this is with this season's neo-retro accoutrements. "Brights and neon accessories are definitely the way to snazz up the usual summery white outfit," said Elizabeth Keister, Jane magazine's fashion market director. "There are so many great things out there."
Whether you want to brighten up a polo shirt or tone down a one-shouldered neon tank, the accessories for 2001 will make you shine in the summer sun. And everything fashion followers covet, from sparkly ponytail holders to flowery flip-flops, can be found at a variety of price points.
Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down
"Belts are just back in a big way," Jennifer Hung, Marie Claire's accessories editor said.
Lots of styles are popular, from extra-wide to thin and strappy. But the most ubiquitous waist-cincher this season is the rainbow-striped elastic icon belt — the same kind '80s kids wore with their jean skirts and cords.
"Marc Jacobs started the whole elastic belt craze with the rainbow/apple belts," Keister said. "I personally think they are amazing — funny and ironic and cute — and a lot of designers have hopped on the trend."
She recommends blue j.'s elastic belt with butterfly buckle ($27) from girlshop.com.
Also straight out of the '80s is the Cyndi Lauper-esque wide belt, which is not actually a belt because it doesn't do anything to hold up your pants. But who needs practical? Worn low on the hips with seeming carelessness, these belts are mischievously sexy.
For a sleeker look, try fastening a simple, whip-thin belt through your loopholes. The result is a slimming, polished-off outfit. (Ralph Lauren skinny belt $95.)
No fashionista worth her stilettos will travel without a tote bag this summer. Sophisticated, breezy and practical, these oversized bags can take you from the office to the beach.
And there are plenty of options. Want to look classy and conservative? Try a classic, canvas tote in a neutral color. For a younger, brighter look, grab a plastic or rubber bag in pastel pink, green or light blue. (Benetton bags $34; Banana Republic totes $70.)
The Future's So Bright ...
Hung says this year's sunglasses are rimless wraps or aviators. While last summer's Charlie's Angels-inspired "heart" shades have come and gone, their brightly colored lenses have remained.
Hung recommends Christian Dior's funky, square-shaped aviators (of which Lenny Kravitz is said to be a fan), in colors such as apricot and yellow, and Gucci's oversized wraps. For the same look without the expense, Nine West has knockoffs in the $30 range.
However, Hung's advice is to spring for the pair that makes you feel movie-star glamorous.
"If you're going to splurge on one thing, sunglasses are the first thing people see," she advises.
Let Me See That Thong
Once a beach necessity, now a fashion staple, flip-flops (know as thongs to the fashion set) with a twist are a great way to make a personal style statement.
Keister recommends designer Charlotte Ronson's hot pink fishnet flip-flops ($62) with nailhead studs adorning the sides, available at www.flipfloptrunkshow.com.
"[They're] a little bit punk, a little bit '80s, but sweet all at the same time," Keister said.
Banana Republic is doing ergonomic rubber flip-flops in a spectrum of colors; sister store the Gap is doing everything else. Fans of the style will flip for traditional rubber thongs decorated with floral appliqué, beading, sequins, straw, and grosgrain ribbon, at a price range of $14-$38.
According to Keister, www.girlshop.com is the best resource for "cheap-o fun" summer accessories. From cuff to charm to snap-on, girlshop's got '80s-style bracelets — a nice change from chunky silver. Make like a virgin and wear more than one, Material Girl-style. (Geometric bracelets by Alexis Bittar, $15.)
Girlshop also has "hair knockers," the same kind mom forced your ponytail into in 3rd grade ($15). Blue j. makes them adorned with rhinestones, crystals and berries for $13-$15.
So this season, go ahead and take that trip down memory lane. Dressed in ergonomic flip-flops and UV-resistant shades with your handy tote bag in tow, not only will you be cute and sassy, you'll be comfortable and sensible. Just go easy on the hairspray.