Attention, early shoppers: dresses, coats and layers top picks for spring fashion

Thousands of outfits were paraded on the runways of New York Fashion Week as top designers previewed their collections for spring. But what if any look will take off?

The dress certainly was a key item, but it's hard to narrow it down further considering that the fashion editors, retailers and stylists who often influence what the rest of us wear saw every shape from sacks to chemises. Generally, though, the idea was to keep dresses airy and light instead of fussy or tight.

Other big headlines to emerge from the eight days of fashion shows were short hemlines, spring coats, metallics for glitz instead of beads, and a very white, black and beige palette with occasional pops of blue and yellow. Graphic prints were popular, too.

There were virtually no pastels the traditional springtime colors and very few pants.

"Dresses sell well," said Stephanie Solomon, Bloomingdale's fashion director, noting that dresses started to take over retail racks this past spring and are expected to do well this fall. "Trends don't have to change completely from season to season. Each season just has to morph a little bit from the one before."

So, instead of tunics with leggings there will be minidresses (a loose shape balances the shorter length) and instead of chunky cardigans, there will be boxy jackets.

"The range, from the clean lines of Narciso (Rodriguez) to the layers at Marc (Jacobs), encourages shopping," added Candy Pratts Price, executive fashion editor of Style.com.

"The U.S. has made a concerted effort to think of the customer. The designers are not saying `You made a mistake with the leggings you just bought,' they're saying let's make the look a little breezy, a little easy, but wear the leggings if you want," Pratts Price said.

No one in the fashion industry expects people to buy a full new wardrobe each season, she explained. Instead, designers are giving many options for building a bigger, more versatile closet.