Mirror, Mirror: Red, White & Blue, all summer through

"I Love You" charm bracelet, $98, at C. Wonder.
"I Love You" charm bracelet, $98, at C. Wonder.
Posted: July 05, 2013

Red, white, and blue, whether worn monochromatically or all together, are the shades of high fashion this summer.

These positively patriotic primaries are preppy on Ralph Lauren polos (did you check out the U.S. Open merch tent?), rough-and-tumble Americana on Harley Davidson T's, and exotic on Mondrian prints.

Couple our penchant for stylish stars and stripes with a rising sense of American fashion pride and - bang - we're saturated in Independence Day deals popping in our national colors.

The amount of red, white, and blue options to choose from this summer is downright dizzying. Some companies - like big-box faves Target and Kohl's - sprinkled flag motifs generously on everything from children's tops to perfect-for-the-picnic salt-and-pepper shakers. Kitschy picture frames, cellphone cases, coffee mugs, and barrettes are getting their Uncle Sam on, too.

And we just know manicurists, from Walnut Street to Cheltenham Mall, are making a killing on July Fourth-themed nail designs.

But that's to be expected.

What's different this year is that retailers from C. Wonder to Converse also are grouping their reds, their whites, and their blues together and advertising them as "Independence Day specials."

"July Fourth is a good marketing opportunity this year," said Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group Inc. "Consumer confidence is up, the economy is clearly on the road to recovery, and people are feeling patriotic."

Retailers, Cohen added, are noticing these trends and hoping people will make impulse buys. "It's all about opportunistic marketing. With the recession, we lost a lot of that."

And this being the last week before retailers trot out their transition-to-fall merchandise (yes, already), they still have a lot of colorful gear to unload - despite how many striped maxi dresses and skirts I recently have purchased.

"One of our key themes for summer was nautical," explained Jon Zeiders, senior vice president of merchandising at C. Wonder. Their July Fourth promotion includes a pair of cute skinny trousers in navy blue with white diamonds. Must-haves!

"Reds, whites, and blues mixed well with corals and yellows," Zeiders said of the other bold colors popular this season. "It was a perfect marriage."

In display windows across the area, from King of Prussia mall to the Gallery in Center City, you will notice the same red, white, and blue mix of trousers, tops, blazers, shoes, and jewelry.

And at Kohl's, bandanna and paisley prints with hints of Wild West influence are part of the so-called Born in the USA trend, said Sofia Wacksman, vice president of trend for Kohl's.

From a holiday merchandising perspective, the combination certainly has a longer shelf life than Christmas sweaters or orange-and-black Halloween socks.

"Classic red-and-white gingham with dark denim is an easy go-to fashionable Fourth look," suggested Christine Martinez, creative director for Luvocracy.com, a San Francisco-based online store that launched a curated collection of July Fourth products last week.

Another reason for the red, white, and blue focus is the economy. The bulk of our apparel manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas decades ago. So as more buyers want their clothes to be made in America, retailers find it helps to highlight the use of heritage hues - even if they don't make a stitch of clothing here.

Certainly, with a dearth of manufacturing help Stateside, it's tough to create apparel brands completely made in America. It's even more difficult to stock an entire closet curated with items sewn here, as they are often more expensive and not as plentiful as apparel manufactured abroad.

But when it comes to dressing for Independence Day, you can certainly wear patriotic colors and support American workers, too.

Nigel Richards, a local designer and owner of menswear brand 611, manufactures the bulk of his slim-fitting pieces locally, many of which use a lot of red, white, and blue. He finds his customers enjoy "clashing and color-blocking."

That's why he doesn't plan to move his American flag-inspired items off the 611Lifestyle.com website at week's end. He certainly won't be putting out "any dark, lame fall motif until it's actually fall."

So wear your red, white, and blue all summer, Richards said.

"Go out of control with it!"


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-954-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @ewellingtonphl.

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