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For fall, designers stick with what works

Rodriguez, Lapore stay true to form; Charles Nolan revisits the '80s
The fall 2006 collection of Luca Luca is presented during Fashion Week, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006, in New York.Diane Bondareff / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

New York Fashion Week has so far been filed with mini trends — skinny pants, shirred sleeves, skirt suits and shirtdresses, among them — but nothing to fuel a zeitgeist. It’s been a parade of mostly wearable clothes, particularly for the working woman.

But there’s still time for something huge to emerge. Over the next three days, editors, stylists and retailers will see fall collections by Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Vera Wang and Karl Lagerfeld.

The fall collection of Michael Kors is presented during Fashion Week in New York, Wednesday Feb. 8, 2006.Richard Drew / AP

These were clothes for a woman who prefers a casual chic style to the more formal dress that her friends will be wearing next fall.

Kors opened the show with a long navy and maroon rugby-stripe dress worn with a navy duffle coat, and closed with a breezy chiffon halter gown adorned with loops of crystals. In between, he showed a short-sleeve blouse and skirt in dark green tartan plaid, a popular print, and a green chiffon paisley scarf skirt with a dark brown leather jacket that already looked broken in.

The skinny stretch jean tucked into boots and paired with a navy sweater coat was the rare sighting of denim on the runway. Kors did, however, touch on other trends, including tie-neck blouses, chunky knits and knickers.

Some designers touted knickers as part of a working woman’s wardrobe. Kors’ knickers had more of a collegiate look, which seemed more appropriate.

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The rare dash of color was infused by a soft rose print, used on a blouse, and a navy and black embroidered coat with a panel of vertical satin pleats in the front was stunning. This coat was an outfit, not a utilitarian necessity.

Narciso Rodriguez: Rodriguez played it safe Tuesday night, and there’s nothing wrong with that when you’ve got a winning formula.

His architectural dresses, with a tight fit and lots of seams, are his signature. But instead of using an occasional splash of color as an exclamation point, Rodriguez kept almost entirely to black and white, emphasizing simplicity and sophistication instead.

The coats were a surprising strength of this collection. A sleeveless black heavy coat was belted at the waist and worn over super-skinny pants, and a loose pink wool coat and a silver collarless coat were standouts.

Cocktail dresses had an unusual embellishment: pieces of plastic. They shimmied and shone just like the best sequins or paillettes.

Marc by Marc Jacobs: Simply known as Marc, this collection targets a slightly younger customer than the Marc Jacobs label. Jacob’s vision for this hipster was bohemian-meets-military, with muted colors in charcoal, rose and blue.

The show was held in the New York State Armory, and a solid wool and felt coat with brass buttons looked as if it was taken right from a soldier. A striking waistless teal print dress featured puffy sleeves, and a brown sweater vest over a more feminine wine-colored shirt seemed to encapsulate the marriage of the two ideas.

Nanette Lepore: Lepore is known for her attention to feminine detailing, and this collection was no exception, from intricate beadwork on her chiffon dresses to billowing sleeves and flirty ruffles on plaid wool skirts and dresses.

Coats, with 3/4-length sleeves and swinging bottoms, were a highlight. Prints and black velvet were strong, but red was the color for the collection.

“Red was gone for a while, but we felt it coming back and now we’ve used it all over,” Lepore said. Her new shoe line included slingbacks and wedges in velvet and knee-high wedge boots in red and gray.

Luca Luca: Dresses dominated this runway, especially black cocktail frocks. But the new little black dress doesn’t hug curves, it glides over them. Luca Orlandi’s best version was a strapless one with a tight bodice, dropped waist and full bottom, with tulle peeking out from the bottom.

Another great dress featured a bodice made of tulle roses and a ballerina skirt.

Shirtdresses were made fancier with either a ruffled or beaded front, and one had fur cuffs.

The question is, whose calendar is filled with so many occasions that call for semiformal dresses?

Charles Nolan: Several nods to the 1980s have made their way to the Fashion Week catwalks — shirred sleeves, booties and power suits, among them — but Nolan’s black leggings, worn under almost every skirt and dress, was the most obvious reference.

Know what? They didn’t look bad, especially when worn with the flat slingback or kitten-heel riding boots the models were wearing.

Tight turtleneck dresses also have been frequent fliers on the runway, and Nolan did above-average versions. A light green satin dance dress with a fitted bodice and bows on the shoulders was a pleasant diversion from the otherwise dark palette.

Bill Blass: Michael Vollbracht shed both the legend and the curse of the Bill Blass brand and finally turned out a collection that took advantage of his strengths: timeless and classic suits, coats and evening wear.

Casual cardigans were thrown over the shoulders of models wearing sophisticated evening looks — a black ballskirt with embroidered ivory-colored roses paired with a white tuxedo shirt was particularly nice — acknowledging the way real women dress, mixing up dressy and casual pieces.

Other noteworthy evening outfits included a brown tulle gown with a strapless draped top and full hand-woven skirt, and a backless red silk chiffon halter evening gown. Hopefully, though, when that gown turns up on a Hollywood star, it’ll be without the thick black belt.