NEW YORK — New York--Designers showing their fall collections this week have borrowed shapes from '40s glamour queens, tailoring details from Edwardian dandies and spots from the Wild Kingdom. It's a long look ahead to fall.
Despite designer assurances in recent years that hemlines will never again be an issue with today's independent women, in the first days of the fall collections all attention was concentrated on hemlines which hovered around the lower calf.
Designers offered many short and appealing options, but the excitement on the runways this season is being generated by the long, narrow skirt. Carmelo Pomodoro slashed skirts in back, off center, allowing a few extra inches of leg to be revealed. Michael Kors' clingy wraps showed as much leg as possible. Calvin Klein gave his long looks added stature by showing them all with color-coordinated stockings and high platform shoes.
Some long-sweeping skirts made a beautiful and fluid appearance on the runway; a flared Blackwatch plaid coatdress introduced Carolina Herrera's classic collection, while Joseph Abboud slashed a gray wool skirt to swirl around the legs.
Yet the narrow, long looks evoke memories. Calvin Klein's suits with a caress at the waist have the elegant air from eras past of a first-class lounge on a trans-Atlantic liner.
Pants for now
Pants, strong in all collections, were the bridge across the hemline divide. The full, deep-pleated trouser made discreet appearances. Michael Kors showed trousers with slouch but also included cigarette cuts and stirrups.
The pant style to watch are the ones that narrow enough to balance the closer cut of the softer men's wear looks. Gordon Henderson cuffed narrow suit pants and Calvin Klein let them drop straight as an arrow.
On the wild side, Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis, gave stretch pants a new meaning. He did them up in animal prints such as leopard, zebra and snakeskin. Carmelo Pomodoro showed great velvet-riding pants and one navy, stretch velvet "Navyboy" trouser with bell-bottoms. That "B" word again.
The manly influence
The men's wear influence is strong in spirit along Seventh Avenue. Carolina Herrera has it in a black-tuxedo jacket with a mid-calf, slit skirt and satin tux blouse. Gordon Henderson has it in a sparkling gray Lurex pant suit. Bill Blass has it in a gray flannel suit. Nicole Miller has it in a banker's gray, buttoned-tight coatdress with a full swirl of petticoat underneath. But Christian Francis Roth really has it when he sends out his bride in a trailing, black-frock coat, with a white-satin underskirt and topped with a plumed top hat.
Throughout the collections, feminine versions of manly dressing details have a charm. Jacket shapes in blazers and spencers. Coats borrowed from the coachman and cavalry officer. Vests that would do a dandy proud.
The wild kingdom
It's easy to spot leopard in the collections; the prints are everywhere -- on the models and in the audience of retailers and fashion writers. Word gets out. Calvin Klein bedecks his accessories with the print -- berets, handbags, platform shoes and even laced-up platform high-top boots. Nicole Miller uses it at collar and cuffs. Bill Blass lines an evening suit in glitter leopard. And Marc Jacobs makes the faux fur fly all over.
Leopard isn't all. It helps to brush up on a little zoology. A fashion writer struggled to identify a certain species until a colleague came up with ocelot. Who can tell? Joseph Abboud and Gordon Henderson showed "pony skin" patterns. There were also sightings of zebra and giraffe.
The gray areas
Shades of gray are strong for fall. Nicole Miller devoted nearly a quarter of her collection to a French spy look that featured retro looks in gray flannel and a gangster segment in gray chalk-stripe.
Carmelo Pomodoro eased into his collection with charcoal and pinstripes brightened by a metallic gun-metal trench. Calvin Klein began his show with rich shades of platinum and pewter. There may be a case for making gray the new basic black.