Corsets offset easy style at NY Fashion Week

September 9, 2008 7:29:32 PM PDT
If you think the easy, loose styles that have dominated New York Fashion Week mean a return to comfort, don't hold your breath: The corset is back. The cinched-waist style proved a staple from designers on Tuesday, offsetting the draped, beachy look so popular on the runways this week.

Monique Lhuillier paired the structured corset with sheer tulle overlays, while other designers went for more Pussycat Doll-like black leather or something more sophisticated under a suit jacket.

Corsets were also shown by Betsey Johnson, Peter Som, Luca Luca, Proenza Schouler, Isaac Mizrahi and the ever-constricting Herve Leger.

New York Fashion Week runs through Friday, with more than 100 runway shows over eight days.

BETSEY JOHNSON
Betsey Johnson is a never-say-never designer. Don't tell her she can't put giant hoop skirts on the catwalk and don't tell her she can't wear a Peter Pan get-up on the runway. And certainly don't tell her she can't have fun or let the models crack a smile.

Johnson is the rare designer who puts the emphasis on the show, not the fashion, yet the Neverland-themed spring collection had some adorable styles once you peeled away the theatrics.

She wouldn't want you to do that, though. Then you'd miss the jokester pirate who mingled with models or her signature finale cartwheel. On the runway, it was hard to distinguish costumes from what would pop up in stores, but some of the Little Bo Peep dresses would make great sundresses if you took the hoops out.

HALSTON
Halston's 1970s-inspired dresses certainly fit in with the unfussy, but not messy style popular at New York Fashion Week. The models lounging on couches at the Museum of Modern Art looked as if they'd be the most chic at Studio 54.

There was a sexy one-shoulder orange gown with a bare back and attached scarf and another one-shoulder gown that looked as if the azure-blue fabric was draped so perfectly it seemed seamless.

The problem is, Studio 54 is a retro icon - that's now out of business.

A too-heavy reliance on the classic Halston look was the same criticism of the fall collection presented in February with much fanfare as the comeback of the legendary label.

DEREK LAM
There's a reason Derek Lam gets the fashion crowd to trek across Manhattan in the rain: His clothes are worth it.

A dominant theme emerging from New York Fashion Week is casual elegance, but few have done it with such a chic and refined touch as Lam. The first looks on the catwalk, including an easy nude-colored jersey tunic with a self-tie belt over cropped jersey pants and a georgette jumpsuit in the same sexy color, set the tone.

Lam wasn't completely without misses, though, including his version of the must-have genie pant. It seemed too trendy and a little out of step with a collection that mostly excelled in updated classics.

MARC BY MARC JACOBS
Leggings, high waists and other remnants left of the 1980s: you've had your heyday. Now it's time for the 1990s.

Marc Jacobs kicked off the spring 2009 show for his younger, less expensive line with a selection of muted florals and stripes in rumpled fabrics, not unlike something you might have seen on the cool kids almost 20 years ago.

The collection seemed to pay homage to the time by culling its fashion from every walk of life: the farm and its worn washed-out khakis, suburbia and its preppy stripes and tweeds, and urban wear with military-inspired jackets and bright purple and red jumpsuits.

The looks were unified by the presence of a belt, or several.

The best looks were the fun day dresses for which the Marc by Marc Jacobs line is known. A blue and white striped organza dress was screaming Miley Cyrus' name. Appropriately enough, she was born of the same decade.

LUCA LUCA
A new creative director for Luca Luca doesn't mean a drastic new direction. In his runway debut on Monday, Raul Melgoza captured the shapely spirit of Luca Orlandi's woman, but with even more emphasis on cut, fit and luxe fabrics.

The designer turned to the bustier for a sexy, lean silhouette, and most of clothes were in cool tones of white and gray, including one-shoulder, bias-cut gowns in satin that looked liked liquid silver.

Melgoza said he prefers to focus on long-lasting designs instead of trends, and that's why he puts so much effort into creating the perfect silhouette instead of adding bells and whistles.

RODARTE
Rodarte captured an earthy, space-agey feel on the runway Tuesday - and no, that's not an oxymoron.

The looks included leather fishnet-like leggings and tops with flesh revealing holes. There were beiges and tans to represent earth elements, like sand and erosion, and colors like metallic blue and black for outer space.

Kate Mulleavy, part of the sister duo behind Rodarte, said they were inspired by space-age movies and environmental art like the Spiral Jetty, along with fossils: "So we tried to do things that were skeletal."

The show included outfits like a blue and black knit skirt matched with a short-sleeved holey sweater over a black bandeau. A tan linen skirt with sequins underneath for a slight shimmering effect was paired with a thready shell.

MATTHEW WILLIAMSON
Retailers often say they want to see bright color in fashion - it makes the shoppers happy. There should have been some smiles on the faces of the buyers at Matthew Williamson's show.

Shades of pink, blue, purple and green exploded on his runway, including a spin-art print on a sexy jumpsuit and a long dress with a beaded neckline. There also was a beaded jacket with an Art Deco feel but the embellishment was in Day-Glo colors.

Some designers have said they'd shy away from a lot of beads, sequins and other sources of shine because they're expensive and maybe not ideal for a down economy, but Williamson apparently sees no better time to jazz up his collection.

CYNTHIA STEFFE
"Wearable" isn't a buzzword you hear after every fashion show, but the models on the Cynthia Steffe catwalk could have just kept going through the Bryant Park tents and onto the street.

The dresses were probably the highlights: A green smocked-waist, boatneck dress would be perfect for cocktails or a daytime wedding, and a khaki "utility" dress with a ruched waist and zip front could go just about anywhere. There also was a group of three tiered white dresses with ruffled necklines - each a different length - that looked lovely.

GOTTEX
Gottex's 69 looks, separated into different sunbathing themes, differed in color, style and material, but all said the same: Broadway at the beach.

The extravagant display of St. Tropez theatrics, apparent in the opening nautical theme that featured gold anchors, sailor collars or gold ribbon trim, showed women that the beach was a place to be a character - in particular one who doesn't get wet, and doesn't tan either (the cutouts and spiderwebs of ribbon would leave strange lines).

The standouts were the simplest and most modest of suits: a group of black bikinis, one-piece bandeaus, and halter tops trimmed with 18-karat gold ribbon.


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