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Long gloves, and tough girls, on the runway

Classic looks from Bill Blass, Marc Jacobs project some attitude
/ Source: The Associated Press

The first thing women might want to put on their shopping list for fall is a pair of long leather gloves. They’ve emerged at New York Fashion Week as a surefire trend.

And they’re practical, too, considering many of the coats and sweaters on the runway have only 3/4-length sleeves.

Luca Luca: Dresses dominated this runway Tuesday, 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?

For everyday, Orlandi favored a sleek shape, offering a sheath dress in a traditional plaid — which editors, stylists and retailers have been seeing a lot of this week — and a simple, polished gray wool jersey dress.

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.

The super-slim cigarette pants worn under a luxe brown kidskin double-breasted coat had a similar effect.

Instead of the bow blouse, which has become ubiquitous, Nolan added ascots to his crisp white cotton shirts.

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 Tuesday that took advantage of his strengths: timeless and classic suits, coats and eveningwear.

Since taking over design duties at the house more than two years ago, it seemed like Vollbracht, a personal friend of Blass, first tried to mimic the late designer’s style. That prompted criticism that the clothes were too old and dowdy for today’s woman. In a knee-jerk reaction, he then turned to girlie looks that were out of character for the label.

This go-around, though, he struck the right balance. A sheer black blouse with a bow around the neck worn with a trumpet skirt and embroidered coat could be worn by a stylish woman, no matter where she lives or how old she is.

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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.

Monique Lhuillier: Lhuillier’s days as a bridal gown designer pay off whenever she goes near lace and tulle, and the red-carpet gowns she previewed were delicate, feminine and pretty. She alternated shapes between slim seamed sheaths and tufted ballgowns.

But the starlets who wear these dresses need to ward off autumn’s chill, and Lhuillier offered them fur capelets, brocade coats and, for daytime, a salt-and-pepper brocade peacoat.

Lhuillier used a beautiful peacock blue jacquard fabric for a corseted cocktail dress and matching bolero. It was a refreshing change from all the black and other dark colors that have dominated the season’s palette.

The Los Angeles-based Lhuillier took her bow just weeks after having her first baby. She said the collection was strongly influenced by the furniture fabrics and wallpapers she studied when she was in her “nesting” phase.

Marc Jacobs: There was no marching band this time, but Marc Jacobs’ show was a crowd-pleaser nonetheless with a fall collection that was more Edie Sedgwick than Grace Kelly.

The Penn State Blue Band kicked off Jacobs’ show last season at the New York State Armory, but the theatrics this time were limited to the clothes.

Jacobs cleverly took some ladylike standbys of his past few seasons and turned them into tough-girl accessories. Dainty tea party gloves became leather, elbow-length gloves; mary janes got a patent-leather makeover and their heels were raised to dizzying heights.

Traditional fall colors and cozy fabrics were punctuated by shimmer and shine. Huge sequin berets and metallic leather boots added bombastic accents to slouchy pants layered with dresses, tiny tank tops and oversize, boxy coats.

Jacobs clearly had his younger fans in mind — Nicole Richie and Rachel Bilson cheered him on Monday night along with longtime muse Winona Ryder — when he designed these looks, whose mix-and-match sensibility give the wearer a chance to reveal her personality instead of her body.

Max Azria Collection: This line, formerly known as BCBG Max Azria, is undergoing a transformation as the company tries to elevate the image of the runway clothes beyond cute, breezy dresses and flattering pants.

Azria concentrated on knits — which made great casual cashmere coats and borderline bizarre bloomers. He wasn’t the only designer to send bloomers down the runway. In fact, the crowd at the Bryant Park tents probably have seen more bloomers and knickers over the first four days of Fashion Week than they’ve seen in the last four years.

Azria also offered several pieces that had origami details, which were similar enough to hit on the big-bow trend but different enough to stand out. But there’s something to be said for simplicity, and the cashmere turtleneck dresses worn with either tweed or cashmere coats were the most sophisticated outfits in the collection.

Betsey Johnson: The sometimes risque, but always playful Johnson was on her best behavior with this collection.

She offered cute cocktail dresses that surely will be on the high school dance circuit; skirt suits, with miniskirts, of course; and a taffeta trench coat that could go just about anywhere and be worn by just about any woman.

The trench coat, paired with a gold blouse with ruffles around the neck and a black flounce skirt, was one of the show’s best outfits. A latte-colored crocheted dress and a boucle suit with candy-colored dots to break up the black background were also standouts.

The hot pants and bloomers that have been far too prevalent at Fashion Week were also on Johnson’s runway, but since she’s Betsey Johnson, they belonged.

Jill Stuart: Stuart dresses a young crowd, and the Goth look she offered should be right up their alley. Models wore long, black Matrixlike dresses, the best being a satin version with a V neck and high waist.

The runway wasn’t all somber, though. A winter white nubby coat and a silver lame all-over pleated gown were winners. Stuart then switched modes and send out a delicate chiffon dress with flutter sleeves in an abstract blue floral print.

Oscar de la Renta: De la Renta’s fall collection confirms some of the emerging trends. His runway had metallic fabrics, three-quarter sleeve tops and jackets worn with long gloves, belted jackets, sweater coats and both skinny cigarette pants and wide-leg cuffed ones. Somehow, though, everything looks a little different when done at de la Renta’s direction. They’re classier and more luxurious.

De la Renta traditionally does great coats and embroideries. This time he combined those skills into an outstanding brown embroidered cashmere coat with pony skin that was paired with a green leather embroidered skirt.

But de la Renta’s other specialty is eveningwear, and while a black sheer tulle dress with embroidered polka dots was pretty, most of his gowns and cocktail dresses with defined waists and voluminous skirts looked stiff and of another time and place. A better black-tie look was a black cashmere jacket with embroidered rosettes, a black sequined T-shirt and skinny black flannel pants.

Carolina Herrera: Herrera said she was inspired by the late ’50s, but many of the outfits were reminiscent of the sportswear of the ’70s, when American ready-to-wear first put its stamp on the world.

She sent several suits down the runway. The skirt suits, in a rust plaid, were fitted and to the knee; the pants had wide cuffed legs.

A new look for fall is fur that is sheared so close it looks like soft velvet. Herrera used that technique for the sleeves on a black and brown wool dress that was otherwise simple — and very sophisticated.

Herrera matched coats with cocktail dresses to create a complete outfit, and the chocolate broadtail coat with a turquoise swirl print lining with a pleated strapless dress in the same fabric was a standout.