Spring spectrum: This season it's all about color for fashion & home

It's spring again, and Lawrence is literally changing colors.

Lawns are greening, tree buds are popping and April showers promise rainbows just around the corner.

But the window shoppers, people watchers and fashionistas among you may have already noticed that nature isn't the only dame showing off her color spectrum as the days get longer and warmer.

Color is REALLY back, and an energetic cheerful palette is the name of the game this spring in everything from men's and women's fashions to home decor.

"We are seeing a lot of brightly colored merchandise -- lots of fuschia and bright pinks and neon blues paired together with stripes and stuff life that. So there's bold patterns AND colors," says Naomi Welch of Urban Outfitters, 1013 Mass.

"We also have some really vibrant true greens and a lot of turquoise and strong aqua blues. Even some yellows are coming in."

The trend toward color started on the spring runways and has trickled down to retailers and boutiques across the country. Color industry experts forecasted the shift, which goes beyond the anticipated spring color flood of past years.

"In 2004 we are leaving a color cycle of almost 20 years when color was largely absent, when it was used a little more tentatively," says Margaret Walch, director of the New York-based Color Association of the United States.

"People jokingly refer to Target colors coming into vogue ... but what they're talking about is just more color -- not black, not gray, not taupe, not beige."

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Thad Allender/Journal-World Photo

Cool tones, vivid accents

'1984 colors'

Choosing the right colors to wrap your body and your surroundings in is more important than you might think, Walch says.

"I always compare it to weather. On a dark black and gloomy gray day, one feels gloomy," she says. "Color, on the other hand, revitalizes you."

The No. 1 comeback color for spring seems to be pink, although it's something of a carry-over from last summer. Warm color schemes in tones of pink, red and orange will stick around, Walch says, because women love them. Another new trend is a return to cooler colors: turquoise, periwinkle, lilac, violet. Yellows and greens -- in everything from muted daffodil to lime -- will be big this spring as well.

"It used to be that fashion items were the same color as basic items, so there wasn't as much urge to buy because, 'It's a black shirt. I already have a black shirt,'" says Greg Easter, owner of Eastons Ltd., 830 Mass.

"Now it's pink and yellow and soft blues and a lot of color, so it's fun to buy a shirt now because it's bold and different than anything you have in your closet. The colors are much more lively than they have been in the past."

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AP Photo

Pinks and warm palettes

"It's kind of a reverberation of 1984 colors."

Taking risks ... gradually

But here in the practical-minded Midwest, Easter only counts on about 20 percent of his customers to go for the loud colors and prints inspired by runway fashions.

"I have farmers who come in here wanting black pants," he says. "Eighty percent of the pants I sell are black."

Welsh, of Urban Outfitters, suggests using basic black as a transition to splash more color into a wardrobe. For instance, a fuschia top with colorful faux pearls pairs nicely with a black skirt and looks anything but drab.

Men, Easter says, tend to stick with neutral pants in denim, khaki or black, but he's seen them getting riskier with candy-colored shirts, bold prints and western motifs.

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AP Photo

Colorful accessories

The uplift factor

The revitalizing effect of color isn't limited to blouses, trousers and accessories. Walch absolutely treasures the jadite-colored Dualite toaster that sits on her kitchen counter. She says to expect designers and homeowners to get a little bolder with their color choices this spring and summer.

"We'll see it especially on doorways, shutters, color accents," Walch says. "People, I think, will coordinate the outside of their home with their plantings."

For the faint of heart when it comes to deviating from plain white walls and siding, Walch suggests introducing spots of color with pillows, accessories or by painting a single wall in a room and then adding more color as it becomes comfortable.

That's really the key to making wardrobe decisions, too.

"By all means, everyone has to choose the colors you feel comfortable in," Walch says. "With this season, no one's going to have a problem because there's going to be a lot of color out there -- all the way from baby blue to hot fuschia."

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