By Jackie White
Knight Ridder Newspapers
It is almost Independence Day. Do you know where your red, white and blue colors are?
Certainly it is customary at this time of year to pull out the summer sweaters embellished with stars and stripes and the flag T-shirts.
For instance, a woman in a Southern airport was getting a jump on the season a few weeks ago. She wore a striped denim vest with a red polo shirt emblazoned with stars across the front. Traditionally, such garments have been popular in the way that Christmas sweaters come out during the festive holidays.
But fashion, like the times, change. After the terrorist attacks and the resulting patriotic fervor that brought USA symbols to a peak last fall, the zeal has evolved into more diverse outlets.
The trend, which also might be billed as regatta or Americana, is reflected now in lifestyle products from china to picture frames to furniture. "The whole patriotic thing has moved to the family, the back yard," says Tom Julian, a trend expert with Minneapolis-based advertising agency Fallon International.
The Chicago-based Academy of Design and Technology issued a statement recently on the effects of the tragedy on design. As people stay home more, they incorporate the patriotic theme into home decor, said Erin Shea, director of the school's design program.
And in apparel, it is still as blatant as the stylized flag T-shirts, flip-flops and caps so pervasive in retail stores such as Target and Old Navy. But equally notable, the fashion is now diffused into a subtle look. Stylish women may wear two or three of the colors and perhaps add a flag scarf or pin. Diane Sawyer of ABC's "Good Morning America" recently was doing co-anchor duties in a white pantsuit with a red and white striped T-shirt.
It's now a color story, says David Wolfe, a fashion director for Doneger Group, retail consultants. Well before last September, flag hues were emerging in the European fashion arena and were highly visible on St. Tropez in the south of France, where trends are often nurtured.
"It's not always about stars and stripes anymore," says Wolfe, who finds the palette refreshing and classic. "And we are finally getting out of that awful period of black."
He expects the idea to go forward with the addition of another color such as tan or yellow to the mix.
Betsy Thompson, public relations director for Talbots retail chain, agrees. "We've always had women who wanted the stars and stripes. This year we've seen renewed interest from people who have never worn it."
But it is quieter. The Talbots stores, which have traditionally carried garments with Americana embellishments, are now marked by a vast array of red shirts, white jackets and pants, gingham check sundresses and a sweater with ribbon striping of deep red and denim blue on white.
It means "adding a little pop of color," Thompson says, even in handbags and other accessories. Flag pins, starting at $18 at Talbots, continue to be strong sellers.
At the same time, flag-inspired garments are easy to find. Stephen Sprouse, a fashion designer who hit big in the `80s with `60s-inspired clothing, has done a stylized graffiti-themed collection for Target stores. It includes flip-flops, children's swimsuits, baseball caps and T's.
Kate Spade, the accessories designer, has added a denim tote bag series, priced from $175 to $195.
Lands' End, the catalog company, has added new patriotic items such as baseball caps and beach towels, says public relations director Chris Morti.
Selling best are the distinctive items unique to the company such as a T-shirt imprinted with the Declaration of Independence or a "Rosie the Riveter" shirt, he says.
Then consider Old Navy. The brand launched the $5 flag T-shirt in 1994. Each year the shirt has a new flag graphic and the same price tag. Since it started, the company has sold more than 90 million flag T-shirts, says Jonathan Finn, public relations director. This year a special-edition T-shirt is emblazoned with all nine flags and priced at $10.50.
After the attacks last fall, the company removed the logo and sold the T-shirt as a limited edition, mostly in Eastern stores. The company donated sales proceeds of $750,000 to a Sept. 11 charity.
What is the appeal of showing your colors? Perry Buffington, a Florida psychologist and author of ``You Are What You Wear,'' says people wear such symbols just as they wear Kansas City Chiefs red when the team is winning. Red, white and blue is "the mark of a winning team."
It's also a sign of support. "We feel we are doing our part - albeit small - to serve, to protect and to defend," Buffington says. It also stands for remembrance. It's a symbol of patriotism. And he adds, "Lest we forget, it's also a fashion statement."
© 2002, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.