The styles shown at New York Fashion Week were meant for next spring — not that you'd know it.
The collections that wrapped up eight days of previews on Thursday have been more covered-up than usual. Leather, suede, long sleeves and black have been all over the runways.
There were nods to the season — leather was lightened up to be more luxurious and buttery than the rock-star looks in stores for fall. Proenza Schouler showed a leather mesh style, similar to the material golfers use for their gloves.
Peter Som offered a silver leather bomber, and a mix of hemlines and sleeve lengths. "I wanted to address all aspects of her life and wherever she might be," he said.
The clothes speak to the idea of seasonless dressing, which is all the buzz among retailers since the weather — and the economy — are so unpredictable.
Fashion Week ended on a high note, with Tommy Hilfiger sending out a strong spring collection and filling his front row with celebrities that sent photographers into a frenzy.
Taylor Swift set off the most flashbulbs just days after the flap with Kanye West at the VMAs, but Naomi Watts, Mary Louise Parker and Rosario Dawson also captured a lot of attention.
The clothes on the runway deserved notice too: Hilfiger's theme was the "relaxed glamour" of a Southern California boardwalk, which meant a surprisingly cohesive mix of crisp nautical looks and disco-era slinky styles.
The opening look featured a robelike swing coat in a dusty rose silk with a complementary button-down blouse — that was, indeed, mostly unbuttoned — and his finale was a one-shouldered draped goddess gown in white jersey.
The jacket-and-shorts set that very well might become the hot womenswear suit for fall was done nicely with a champagne-colored silk bomber, khaki pleated shorts and a silk tank with gold trim.
Basic means something else when you're Ralph Lauren. It means silver-sequined slashed jeans, organza "work-shirt" dresses and even a metallic blue-lame gown with all the trademark details of coveralls.
Lauren, who embodies the classic American sportswear look, said he wanted to craft spring-season clothes that reflected the "resilient spirit" of the nation — and its work ethic.
He seemed keenly aware of how the economy has beaten up on the fashion industry, especially the luxury market where his runway collection operates.
The simplest looks on the catwalk, which was lined with the Lauren clan and Janet Jackson, were the floral dresses that featured sweet, delicate floral prints reminiscent of those farm wives wore in the 1930s. Denim was more dominant than usual with silhouettes ranging from a tailored, suit-style jacket to rolled-ankle work jeans.
The easy elegance that has become the hallmark of the spring shows was alive and well on the Calvin Klein runway.
The simple and sophisticated palette that creative director Francisco Costa favors this season was dominated by white, black and a neutral color he called porcelain.
What's new here is the looser shape and an emphasis on textures. In recent history, Costa has focused on architecture, but this was more about needle-punched fabrics, crinkle silk and a bit of mohair. A white dress with all-over crushed pleats was the perfect thing to wear for cocktails after a day at the beach.
Most styles were short, as has been the trend, and the looks that were long mostly had a sheer bottom, adding to the feeling of lightness, even if the sleeves often were long or models were wearing jackets.
Forget clothes for a minute: Isaac Mizrahi knows how to put on a show.
With a rain spray, wind machine, spotlights and a staircase incorporated into his catwalk, Mizrahi even sent out one model in a golf cart wearing a black-sequin shorts suit — and a white top hat, of course.
The eveningwear is what sparkled: A strapless black cocktail dress with a giant white rose on the bustline, and a fluted gown covered in black lace and tufts of tulle, both captured classic Mizrahi and his theme of a retro country club.
Mizrahi also needs a fix of kookiness, though, and this go around he accomplished that with an iridescent lava lamp-fringe coat.
Feathers or tinsel? Take your pick from the Proenza Schouler runway.
The design duo of Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez had plenty to keep the fashion flock — including Leighton Meester and Courtney Love — buzzing. The first set of skirts and dresses had the jacket-tied-around-the-waist look with the silhouettes permanently fixed with zippers and buttons on the backside.
Skirts were often paired with navy tailored jackets with very sculptured shoulders, an evolution of a current trend.
Next up were short shift dresses that alternated feathers and tinsel at the hemline. Then came the lingerie-inspired cocktail dresses, some with bra tops and cutout midriffs — another Fashion Week trend — and tiers of mini ruffles as the skirt.
It took some guts to put band majorette hats on the runway, but the faces of a clearly entertained audience must have made it worthwhile for Anna Sui.
The bouncy, youthful dresses in the spring collection Sui presented Wednesday were born from the designer's love of the 1967 movie "Doctor Dolittle." The Victorian circus was the most inspirational part of the film, she said. That came through in bow blouses and cropped-pants and shorts suits, albeit shrunken ones.
Anyone who follows Sui's look knows she is a bit of a '60s junkie — it came through this season in mod-shaped shift dresses and psychedelic colors, especially purples, yellows, greens and turquoise blue. Most of the outfits captured the optimistic vibe that Sui said she thinks the industry — and consumers — are ready for now.
Marchesa turned out some real showstoppers, dresses tailor-made for the label's red-carpet fans.
The greatest feat was a black-and-white duchesse satin strapless gown folded like a fan in the front and with a fully laser-cut skirt.
Designer Georgina Chapman said the late Anthony Minghella's production of "Madame Butterfly" served as her inspiration: "The music is so beautiful. I listened to it recently and thought about how feminine and fragile it was, and that it was about love."
The Asian aesthetic was carried throughout, including an oyster-colored, hand-painted floral obi coat and an embroidered obi jacket, worn with black evening shorts. Chapman also played with some sheer fabrics, often in a nude color, which ended up a game of strategic peek-a-boo.
It was time for Peter Som to do happy. And it turns out it suits him.
It's been trying times for the young designer, parting ways with Bill Blass and losing a financial investor, but — at least when it comes to design — it seems he's found his way out of the storm.
Earlier in his career, he sometimes faced criticism that his eye was too mature for the uptown party girl he was courting. But that customer now has a choice of a silver leather bomber over a lemon-yellow, petal-print skirt or a shimmery steel-color leopard coat with an exploding-floral print short.
It was a gray day Wednesday on the Doo.Ri runway, where the designer presented an ensemble of shorts, dresses and blouses in varying shades of gray.
But while gray is certainly plain, Doo.Ri's spring collection was anything but. Pleats, plisse, tulle and ruffles brought class and sophistication.
Dresses ranged from a gray short sleeve V-neck dress with a drawstring at the waist and a crinkled skirt bottom to a short sheath tulle dress with silver sequins on the sides making it look like a sewn-on, flashy jacket.
Even with a few flashes of dark blues and pinks, the sun never seemed to come out — but that's OK.