New York -- If you believe what you see on the runways, come next spring fashionable women will all be wandering around in their nighties. Or maybe even their underwear.
Bra tops, bustiers and corsets have been turning up in nearly every collection this week as American designers unveil their spring lines. There also seems to be an overwhelming passion for black lace fabrics and all things transparent.
Much of the excess, however, exists purely for the sake of entertainment and promotion. No matter how handsome a basic blazer may be, it becomes a real standout when you add just a little bustier and show lots of bare skin.
For the most part, designers don't seem interested in taking any real risks at a time when clothing sales are so dismal. (All those lacey confections and see-through fabrics, by the way, will come with discreet linings.)
"Options" is the favorite word of the season. Rather than alienate a potential customer, designers seem to be trying to offer it all. You'll find tight skirts and full skirts and long ones and short ones. Can't decide on a hem length? How about pants? Wide-legged or narrow? The choice is yours.
GOING TO ALL LENGTHS
A great majority of skirts are above the knee, but designers are introducing the longer look with a variety of creative ideas aimed at accustoming the consumer's eye to the change. Long skirts are frequently wrapped or slit, or cut in transparent fabrics, so that the leg still peeks through. Sometimes long overskirts are layered over shorts or a miniskirt.
Michael Kors used tulip hems that are long at the back and curve up gracefully on either side to a short skirt at the front and elliptical hems cut short on one hip and draping longer across to full length at the other leg.
Calvin Klein took a more conventional approach with sheer georgette dresses that floated down to midcalf but still showed off the leg as the fabric clung.
For the Perry Ellis collection, designer Marc Jacobs created a "car wash" skirt -- a short leather miniskirt with a fringe of leather strips that dangled to the knee.
A return to waist definition is a common thread to many collections, but no single skirt shape dominates. The possibilities include everything from long and languid skirts at Calvin Klein to short bouncy, rumba skirts at Michael Kors, Perry Ellis, Carmelo Pomodoro and others.
Crinolines and petticoats popped up on many a runway, buoying short skirts and long. Several designers even took the net out from under the skirts and used it for the skirt itself to create dresses reminiscent of a ballerina's costume. Bill Blass created some of the most extravagant with embroidered bustiers and miles of floating tulle skirts.
The crinolines and prairie skirts seem destined more for party looks, but designers are also offering a more flared look for
daytime with A-line cut skirts and dresses.
Topping off these many skirt shapes are a variety of looks. Among the most popular is the knit tank, cut to look much like a man's undershirt, but showing up in the most glamorous ensembles.
Lovers of the sleek and stretchy will still find much to choose from, since Calvin Klein included several such looks in his collection and designers such as Eleanor Brenner offered plenty of streamlined scuba dresses and bike shorts.
Sleek, black, sheer stretch garments from his new bodywear line were the foundation for a variety of fluid and flowing shapes in Carmelo Pomodoro's collection.
Black and white all over
To tempt those customers who're saturated with bright colors, several designers are turning back to basic black, often contrasted with white. Soft pastels are yet another option to last season's bolder hues.
Black and white turns up together for day in plaids and polka dots. For evening, black lace worn over nude satin was the
inspiration for a variety of sizzling evening looks from such diverse designers as the traditional Bill Blass and the more avant garde Michael Kors.
Calvin Klein opted for white for his evening wear finale and soft pales like mango and papaya for daywear.
Marc Jacobs used lots of black and white checks, but also included a distinctive palette of muted desert hues for his Western-inspired collection that included Hollywood motifs, cowgirl get-ups and lots of Latin ruffles.
As with all the trends for spring, choices abound. Fans of strong color will still find lots of new looks in shades of bright at such places as Bill Blass and Eleanor Brenner. Michael Kors put lime green, navy and white together in a takeoff of preppy basics, but kept the shapes very modern.
Girls will be boys
Crinolines and tutus are abounding, but a quiet menswear movement is also afoot. The big, white men's-styled shirt is a favorite of many a designer, worn often oversized with the sleeves rolled up.
Jennifer George gave an evening twist to her white men's shirts, added French cuffs and cuff links and paired them with snug short black beaded skirts.
Greater numbers of pants are turning up than seen in several seasons, often suited with a jacket. Here again, the shapes range -- from skinny, cigarette to cropped and full.
Check it out
Plaids are here again for spring, but looking a little more subtle than for this fall. Gingham is the newest twist, often shown in black and white.
A popular use of checks is to mix the various sizes. Bill Blass, for instance, paired a jacket of big black and white buffalo checks with a skirt of a smaller check and a striped tank top. He also managed to twin leopard chiffon tops with a plaid skirt and jacket, keeping a harmony between the two by choosing each in a soft shade of beige.
Traditional spring favorites like stripes and polka dots are also sprinkled throughout the collection, as are various sized florals.