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FASHION VERA WANG
Kathy Willens  /  AP
A model wears a lavender silk faille corset jacket with white men's heavy cotton dress shirt with hand-crocheted eyelet jabot and navy floral brocade peasant skirt during the presentation of Vera Wang's spring 2006 collection, Thursday, Sept. 15.
updated 9/15/2005 4:46:56 PM ET 2005-09-15T20:46:56

Vera Wang went to college to study art, and she successfully draws from that knowledge in her fashion designs.

Her spring runway show Thursday during New York Fashion Week featured obvious references to Matisse, including deep romantic colors and a scribble print.

Wang’s other influence was the Wild West: She described garments in her notes as saloon cigarette skirts and petticoat and prairie dresses.

“In the dream world of Matisse and the gritty reality of the American frontier, the diversity of women in our society offers the chance for greater exploration and even greater inspiration,” she explained.

Slideshow: Fashion week A lavender silk faille corset jacket, white cotton dress shirts with hand-crocheted eyelet trimming and navy floral brocade peasant skirts were both interesting and chic.

This was a collection with a strong vision, beautifully made clothes and intricate details. And while the outfits were styled with incredible contrast — making them hard to wear in everyday life — separate pieces could be worked into a wardrobe. An iridescent beaded skirt in dark green taffeta, a black lace bed jacket and a funky black taffeta eyelet painter’s blouse were especially noteworthy.

Wang, though, is best known for her red carpet dresses. A star who breaks away from the safe satin gowns and puts on Wang’s black pleated bolero and black tulle empire shift with a jeweled underbust surely would be applauded.

Youthful with classic touches

FASHION J. MENDEL
Stuart Ramson  /  AP
A white broadtail and blushed organza vest is modeled over an almond chiffon pleated skirt during the presentation of the spring 2006 collection of J. Mendel.
J. Mendel’s eveningwear was youthful with details such as frayed edges and corset tops, but it was classical, too, making it appropriate for the socialite who hits the nightclubs after charity galas.

Gilles Mendel’s design roots are as a furrier, and he couldn’t resist using some broadtail in his newest collection.

“I appreciate the idea of a spring fur. It’s a fantastic luxury to be able to wear a short-sleeve mink,” said Nina Garcia, fashion director at Elle magazine.

Though impractical, an oatmeal-colored velvet mink vest put a fabulous finishing touch on an almond chiffon gown with accordion pleats. And a white broadtail shrunken vest over a chiffon corset worn with white wool gabardine pants looked cool.

White was the word at Douglas Hannant, and all the waffle tweed sheaths and suits are sure to please the designer’s Park Avenue customers.

Hannant’s suits were trimmer than others shown at the Bryant Park tents this week because the designer didn’t opt for the layered look. Instead, he combined tops and jackets into one. The garments were still soft, thanks to the textured fabric and unfinished edges.

Dresses were easy and breezy, especially a beige halter dress with a delicate pearl necklace.

New York Fashion Week draws to a close Friday with shows by Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and rocker Gwen Stefani.

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