Spring Fling

A rundown from the runways features the flirty, the sweet and the breezy

FashionWeek

September 16, 2004|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - If fall fashion is a refined woman, all prim, ladylike and tweedy, then spring is her ebullient younger sister - innocent, girly and fun.

As Fashion Week came to a close yesterday, a fanciful mood for spring was forecast - with floaty, candy-colored dresses, sweet cuffed shorts, romantic prints and soft, luxurious fabrics.

The designers, displaying their work under a light and airy tent in Manhattan's Bryant Park, gave women permission to be paradoxes when shopping for clothes this spring.

Spring's woman can be both feminine and adventurous in Cynthia Steffe's clothes. Wearing Carmen Marc Valvo, she can be sexy, but subtle. And Marc Jacobs' free-spirited collection showed pieces that were girlishly cute as well as glamorous.

Whether it's innocence or elegance, sexy or sporty, classy or fun, flowers, fruits, chiffons, silks, taffetas or organzas, the message for spring is clear: Be pretty.

Here's how some notable designers sized up the season:

Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs is the designer to watch.

His clothes will wind up replicated for "regular people" in Gaps and Old Navys across the country.

So pay attention to the bold colors that Jacobs showed this week - aquas and yellows, pinks, lilacs and periwinkles. Take note of the stripes, the polka dots, the ginghams. See those casual canvas shoes? You'll surely see them again.

Using easy fabrics, like cotton, and cozily familiar pieces, such as T-shirts and polos, Jacobs puts spring's woman at a hot dogs-and-lemonade picnic, a sunny outdoor wedding or a county fair.

"A lot of fashion designers make you feel like a film star or a rock star," said Nick Sullivan, fashion director at Esquire magazine. "[Jacobs] just does really amazing, simple things that people really want to wear."

For spring, Jacobs showed gingham dresses, polka-dot cardigans and cashmere rugby tops. A sure-to-be-copied item: organza coats embroidered in a Red Cross-emblem pattern, in bright colors like orange, green and pink.

Sometimes, however, Jacobs got a little too ahead of the curve. A striped suit looked more like pajamas than office wear. A few floral dresses made his models look like Raggedy Ann. And his formal dresses with huge bows and flowers - complete with matching shoes - wandered into the land of bad-bridesmaidsville.

The final word: If you like the cutting edge, Jacobs' clothes are for you.

Vivienne Tam

Inspired by the costumes of a southern Chinese people called the Miao, Vivienne Tam's spring 2005 collection was a highlight of the latter half of Fashion Week. Her clothes were sleek and sexy, feminine and exotic - without being Crayola colorful or abstractly cut.

Unlike other less-seasoned designers who pick an easily recognizable theme for their collection, and then beat you over the head with it, Tam had nothing in her line that shouted the theme in all capital letters. There were mandarin collars, kimono jackets and Buddha prints, true, but Tam's colors, fabrics and silhouettes were quietly beautiful.

Except for a few metallic pieces, Tam mostly stuck to light and dainty chiffons, silks and satins.

Tam's tops were flowy - the feminine theme of the season - but many of her pants and skirts were super skinny, a combination that worked well together.

Actress Bebe Neuwirth, wearing a Tam design at the show, called the collection "beautiful and feminine."

"The lines were just gorgeous, and so feminine," she said. "Just really lovely, complex in a very fragile way, like butterfly wings."

There were some misses, though.

Two three-quarter-sleeved coats in bold prints looked more like Grandmother's housecoats than high fashion, and a denim kimono jacket was cut too full to fit in with Tam's sleek and sexy look.

The final word: Tam's vision for spring is beautiful, exotic, elegant.

Donna Karan

Donna Karan's spring collection was a standout because of its decided blandness. Save a few pieces in bold fuchsia and cobalt blue, most of her line was utterly understated - various shades of gray and sand, with some white thrown in.

Karan calls the palette "metal, air and water." Laymen will probably call it boring.

The silhouettes, however, were very appealing, particularly Karan's stretchy skirts and dresses that hugged the body in a comfortable but sexy way. Also appealing was Karan's use of soft, comfy T-shirt and sweat-pants materials - such as stretch cotton and matte jersey - juxtaposed against leather skirts and metallic accents.

The sex appeal of Karan's collection sneaks up on you. A solid gray skirt, upon closer inspection, really is an ultra-fine net that reveals a hint of skin. Another dress is pure gauze. Sheer touches appear unexpectedly throughout the collection.

Karan's suits, however, don't match the subtle sultriness of her skirts and dresses. They're too severely constructed.

The final word: Karan's spring clothes are comfortable and wearable, but the colors are too washed out.

Vera Wang

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