?' la mode: a guide to style

Transition into spring with ladylike skirts and the revival of the crop top

The Spectrum

The melting snow, the upcoming rain and tulip bouquets filling flower stands all point to spring - that means fewer clothing layers and more colors. But it's still pretty cold most days, which can pose problems when transitioning from winter bundling to spring skirts.

On a college-student budget, it's safe to say many of us are poor, poor, poor. It can be easy to turn to stores like Forever 21 as we clean out our closets, donate forgotten clothes to charity and peruse fashion blogs for spring trends.

The danger of stores like Forever 21 and H&M is that they cater to fast fashion. Fast fashion is mass-produced, mass-bought and mass-worn clothing of low quality and seemingly cheap prices. These stores do not boast a signature style but rather run through trends. If you routinely blow your paycheck on fast fashion you're in danger of looking like a slave to trends.

But you shouldn't completely ignore what's currently popular - nobody likes looking like they're straight out of an '80s aerobics video because they missed the memo on how to fashionably wear leggings in the 21st century. Mixing classic silhouettes and colors can help offset the pathetic walking-trend look (i.e. high-waist acid-wash jeans and a floral crop top with studs on the collar).

This spring, hemlines on skirts dropped to the knee-length and lower, immediately elevating an outfit to ladylike. Rather than thigh-grazing body-con skirts that are so often the staple of a college girl's party outfit, longer skirts are more universally flattering. Perhaps counter-intuitively, longer lengths can be sexy. Skirts that hit just above the knee highlight the leg while creating a classic silhouette (think the ladies of Mad Men).

A skirt with a few more inches of fabric is a trend that's likely to stay for more than a few seasons, but the lifespan of the crop top may be a bit shorter. Pairing a crop top with a long skirt is certainly trendy but also an extremely fun silhouette that toys with classic looks. If you're wary of barring your stomach, high-waisted skirts that hit just below the bottom of the crop top allow you to be with the trend while remaining covered. Or, tuck a shirt into a high-waisted skirt to imitate the trend.

In my outfit, which combines the ladylike skirt with the crop top, I drew upon classic looks to downplay the trendiness of the outfit. Choosing black for the crop top instead of a pattern avoids looking too dated once the trend starts to fade.

My skirt is a thrifted J.Crew version that embraces spring colors and patterns. Happily, jewelry collars are still going strong and choosing a time-honored accessory will step your outfit up without looking too common.

Here, I'm wearing a pearl collar from Forever 21. Finally, no outfit should be without your particular signature style - especially if you're drawing on multiple trendy items. Although brogues became quite popular in the past year or so, I think they're a long-term style that works with just about any outfit. Drawing on masculine suiting can complicate your outfit, making it more interesting.

Finally, the absolutely most important final touch to any of my outfits is knee-high socks. Thigh-highs are clearly gaining in popularity as shown in pseudo-fashion Instagrams and visual displays at Urban Outfitters, but knee-highs are still relatively undiscovered (except by Prada with leg warmers, but who can fault them?). For me, knee-highs add an element of warmth while creating an eccentric look.

Discovering your own signature pieces will allow you to mix trends with classic looks to create a personal style that defies the time boundaries of seasonal trends.

email: emma.janicki@ubspectrum.com