published Monday, June 4th, 2012

Popular maxi dresses ignite 1970s style

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    Lorean Mays wears a Poppy Fields maxi dress, $100, and Sea Urchin gold/rhinestone earrings, $39.95, with coordinating bracelet, $59.95. Fashions courtesy of Coldwater Creek.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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Long maxi dresses, throwbacks to the 1970s, represent one of the most flattering fashion trends of the season.

"I love them. Though I wasn't around in the '70s, I recently purchased one because I loved the look," said Meagan Jolley of Cleveland, Tenn. "I'd wear it anywhere -- leisure, work, church, etc."

Vicki Carroll Altman of Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., is also a fan of the ankle-length dress.

"I wore them in the '70s, again in the late '90s and am enjoying them now," Altman said. "I would like to find some with sleeves. A little shawl or sweater is nice but sometimes too hot."

Today's styles are a contemporary take on the maxi dress of the 1970s combined with a fresh vibrant look, said Olivia Totman, spokeswoman for Angelika London, a hand-painted clothing line (angelikalondon.com).

"The trend has generally come from the catwalks, which is mirrored in the high street shops and transformed into a huge success through celebrities," London said.

"A lot of women love wearing maxi dresses. They are easy to wear in the summer as they are comfortable and can be worn to an elegant or simple occasion," London said. "Angelika tries to create the perfect maxi dress which you can wear to an evening event and also to the beach."

Maye Hayes Jepson of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., said she is glad to see the maxi dress in the forefront of fashion.

"I'm an older lady, and this is one fashion from the '70s that I'm happy to see return," she said. "I live at the beach, and maxis are everywhere. I wear mine whenever I feel like it. Actually, they are cooler than shorts in our Southern humidity."

Fashion experts said the maxi dress is flattering for women of all shapes and sizes.

Anybody can wear them, said Katherine Roberts Berger, a former model and owner of K Boutique on North Market Street.

"It's about portion and the style of maxi each woman chooses," she said. "One of my wonderful clients is in her early '60s and around 5-feet 2-inches tall and looked gorgeous in a belted maxi from 'K.'

"Overall, I would probably suggest smaller prints for the most part or solid color and to pay attention to the volume of the maxi versus your own shape."

Totman said flower prints are popular due to a floral trend that is seen every summer.

"Our most popular maxi dress is the golden feather/green sunflower maxi as it can be worn to an elegant evening venue as well as to a trendy beach party," she said.

The maxi dress is also ideal for women to wear during a pregnancy.

"I love them," said Victoria Meek Underwood of Dunlap. "I was wearing one when I went into labor. I still wear them. I like that for less than $30 you can get a really versatile dress. I wear my dresses from work and straight to dinner -- just change shoes, add a cute scarf and you're good to go."

Underwood, a native of Wales who moved to Tennessee as a child, said maxi dresses are ideal for summer wear.

"The dresses are so comfortable in these hot Tennessee summers. I don't feel like I have layer after layer of clothing on," she said.

Scarlett Smith of Chattanooga Scarlett said maxi dresses are "cute and comfortable."

"I have made two of my own after finding tutorials on Pinterest," Smith said. "They are great for lazy summer days around the house or wearing over my swimsuit, but if we decide to go out to a restaurant or a movie, I still feel cute."

Comfort is a virtue every woman appreciates.

Aloha Buffington, of Calhoun, Tenn., said she has many reasons for liking maxi dresses, but comfort tops the list.

"You can move freely and feel like you're wearing nothing," she said. "Depending on the neckline, most make you look great."

Buffington said the long dress can also hide body flaws.

"I like the way (it) hides my slightly imperfect, chunky knees," she said. "I feel graceful when I move, and that's quite an accomplishment. I love maxi-dresses whether or not they are the fashion of the day."

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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