N.Y. Runways Filled With Practical Styles

Working women rejoice: You'll actually have stylish-yet-appropriate clothes to wear next fall. Even better, there also will be clothes for you to wear to dinner, parties and play dates — with or without the kids.

The collections previewed on the runways in the opening days of New York Fashion Week were mostly wearable. But there were some misses, too, especially the short bubble skirts and knickers that have graced more than one catwalk.

Designer shows continue through Friday with Chanel and Fendi designer Karl Lagerfeld making his runway debut in New York with his new Karl Lagerfeld/Lagerfeld Collection as the finale.


MONDAY, Feb. 6

Carolina Herrera: Shirtdresses return to the wardrobe — even as gowns. Herrera turned bright red silk into a basketweave shirtgown, jazzing it up to be black-tie worthy with a beaded belt.

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

An emerging trend for fur is shearing it so close that 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.


SUNDAY, Feb. 5

Diane von Furstenberg: Von Furstenberg brought back the '80s power suit, down to the slim pencil skirts with high waists, puffy sleeves and oversized lumberjack-check and houndstooth prints. But von Furstenberg modernized the look by slimming the silhouette and adding feminine details, such as a peplum on a jacket or using a rosebud-print chiffon fabric for a blouse.

The newest incarnation of her wrap dress, which she first put on the runway in 1975, had a fuller skirt and was made in brushed cotton and suede instead of the classic jersey.

A black belted shirtdress with vertical pleats was one of those chic outfits that easily go from day to night.


Badgley Mischka: It was a subtle shift, but to mark their return to Fashion Week after sitting out a few seasons, eveningwear designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka decided to court the funkier Grammy crowd instead of the more staid Oscar-goers.

Several styles featured accordian-style vertical pleats. The best were a bright yellow strapless cocktail dress with a bow under the bust, and a printed silk satin and chiffon gown in plum, black and white.

The duo also offered a cool daytime look — at least a daytime look for celebrities: sheared mink skirts with unsheared mink hemlines.

However, a shapeless red dress with a separate piece of fabric in the back that stretched from the neck to the mid-thigh hem looked a bit like a boat's sail — and it was a dud.

The show closed with an unexpected black satin trench coat with a skull made out of fancy beads on the back.


Luella Bartley: Londoner Bartley offered something for the woman who likes the look of both country crooners and punk rocker, but still dresses up in a dress with a pearl collar and bow around her waist for tea with her grandmother.

Shrunken jackets, one in textured leather with studs and another decorated with pearls, looked hip with tailored trousers or super skinny jeans. A light pink patent leather trenchcoat was a lighthearted version of a practical item.

But even the young customer who likes Bartley's playful style probably would think twice before putting on the puffy micro-miniskirts that looked like Cinderella ballgowns after the evil stepsisters took their scissors to them.


Tuleh: Tuleh's socialite customer will have to go even lighter on their low-fat fare to get into Bryan Bradley's new long, skinny skirts, but it's all in the name of a super-polished look.

Most of the skirts had high waists and hit below the knee, and were worn with booties with wooden, stacked heels.

Bradley also played with proportion, offering a loose satin blouson top with a high neck in the front and a big cutout in the back, and a puff-sleeve short fur jacket. A top with sleeves made of cascading feathers didn't work, though.


DKNY: Donna Karan's DKNY line is aimed at her younger customers and has more of New York's street style than her signature collection. But with this fall's offerings, anyone could wear the outfits.

Easy, chic dresses had loose tops and skirts with gathered high waists to show off the best parts of a woman's shape. A wine-colored mohair sweater coat was the kind of comfortable cocoon that can be worn on a Sunday stroll — and into a nice restaurant if you get hungry along the way.

There were some schoolgirl-inspired looks, too, but they had a sophisticated edge that kept them from being cartoonish. Satin mini bubble skirts, paired with georgette T-shirts and cropped cardigan sweaters, looked cute on the runway, but the tissue silk skirts that hit just below the knee would be much easier to wear.


Tracy Reese: Reese's signature style is "pretty" and for fall she did it again. However, she didn't go overly girlie, except for a few too many bows on dresses that didn't need them.

The collection was cohesive — but not cluttered — as Reese debuted her accessories collection.

Her wide patent leather belts with gold hardware were worn high on the waist over a black V-shaped vest and cream-colored shirt with oversized sleeves, and again with a black tribal beaded blouse and flowing skirt. Leather booties with thick heels that tied at the top looked clunky with some of the dresses, though.

For dressing up, a blue floral sequined shift glimmered like an ocean and a berry-colored long tiered dress had a tank neckline alternately decorated by ethnic brown beads and glamorous purple crystals.



Lacoste: There was nothing groundbreaking about the newest Lacoste collection, presented Saturday night, since it mostly adapted the brand's well-known preppy golf and tennis styles for back-to-school or winter sports wardrobes.

However, the rainbow of V-neck sweaters, leather hoodies and ultrasuede blousons that danced down the runway in front of a boom-box backdrop certainly was cheery and wearable — except for some sweat pant-style knickers.

Designer Christophe Lemaire was inspired by the first album from De La Soul called "3 Feet High and Rising" and he clearly was trying to bring a little hip-hop attitude to downright nerdy details, such as wire-rim glasses and too-short pants.

The show also included puffy parkas and rubber boots in bright candy colors.


FRIDAY, Feb. 3

Baby Phat: For Kimora Lee Simmons, fall will be a season of restraint, which for Simmons, wife of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, means clothes that don't get an X rating.

Among the looks she sent down the runway: a double-breasted rose tweed coat and a winter white dress with brown trim that seemed inspired by a flight attendant's uniform — down to the matching hat.

Dresses were the strongest part of her collection, including a flowing pink empire-waist gown with a red pleated satin bust and red ribbon threaded underneath.

Skirts were mostly short and some tops, including a nice cream-colored blouse with a ruffled neck, flounced sleeves and bottom, and a belt around the waist, were sheer. The model wore that top with slim leather pants.

Several outfits featured metallic tweed fabrics.

But Simmons couldn't resist a few tarty touches, such as a bodysuit worn with nothing but a fur vest and long leather driving gloves, and supershort shorts that looked like bubble bloomers paired with a draped top in shiny pink jersey.


Nicole Miller: Miller's mantra was stand up — and out — and be noticed. She used several stiff metallic fabrics that came away from the body. To emphasize her point, a few garments had oversized bows. Sometimes this worked, on a metal jacquard blouse, for example, but on a strapless embroidered dress, it looked more like holiday gift wrap than a party dress.

The other bold statement was her use of big, graphic Byzantine mosaic prints, mostly in an autumnal palette of brown, olive and orange with gold accents. Miller picked up on the emerging trend of skinny pants, and a pair of distressed leather ones were especially nice, though some seemed too tight for the models — not a good sign for the rest of us.

Some of her best looks were a high-neck asymmetrical coat in the Byzantine print with two jewels as fasteners, a lace-trimmed silk blouse and a stretch tissue metallic skirt, and an iridescent metallic coat that looked alternately burgundy and silver, which was worn over a blouson top in soft velvet and cigarette pants.


John Varvatos: Varvatos designs for tough guys. They wear military coats or distressed leather jackets, flight pants and rugby shirts. On the runway, they wear their three-button suits with combat boots.

Apparently, though, Varvatos isn't afraid to embrace a man's softer side. He borrowed a few details that have been popular with women lately, including a poncho, an asymmetrical coat and, in an item that's already becoming ubiquitous for fall, a stiff metallic scarf.

The question is: Will regular Joes wear such things? Either way, they'll surely like the brown crocodile-embossed leather commander's jacket.


Kenneth Cole: Cole set the stage for an office romance, dressing women in refined dresses, wool skirt suits and high-neck tie blouses and men in cashmere sweaters, sportcoats and tailored trousers in varying shades of gray and brown.

The women's clothes hugged in the right places and flowed in others to be just suggestive enough to keep them from morphing into a 1970s typing-pool look. The men showed a little flair with their chunky sweaters and thick scarves.

Standout outfits for women included a cardigan jacket with an oversized collar in dark gray cashmere worn with a merino wool pencil skirt; a lighter gray wool wrap jacket with a band around the front of the waist worn with a slim wool pant; a simple and sophisticated cocoa-colored cashmere turtleneck dress; and a caramel shearling belted coat with a high collar.

For men, a dark gray cardigan with a white-and-gray striped shirt, brown silk dot tie and moleskin flat-front pants was among the best looks. Most of Cole's pants, for both men and women, tended to have skinny legs and waistbands actually on the waist.


John Bartlett: Bartlett's runway show featured clothes fit for a lumberjack, longshoreman and a New England college professor.

Bartlett said he was inspired by "an untamed stretch of coastline and wilderness that lies between Provincetown and Walden Pond, Mass." That translated into lots of thin-wale corduroy jackets and pants, trousers in a subtle plaid pattern, wool henley tops, peacoats and duck boots.

A green tweed jacket with suede patches on the elbow paired with a green hoodie sweater was a fresh look, while a chocolate brown corduroy suit was an inspired version of a classic. The palette also included some nice blues, including a teal crewneck sweater worn over a shirt and tie and paired with navy wool military-inspired pants with black wool trim.

Bartlett is in his first year as creative director of luxury leather company Ghurka, and his show included some of those styles as well, including a houndstooth-and-black leather overnight bag and a leather log carrier.


Red Dress Collection: Top designers paired with singing stars to promote The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's awareness campaign about women and heart disease. The singers all wore red on the runway, but otherwise the designers offered very different styles.

Lindsay Lohan opened the show in a long-sleeve Calvin Klein gown with a V-neck and dropped waist; LeAnn Rimes wore a spaghetti-strap gown with a tightly pleated bust and high front slit by Zac Posen; and Sheryl Crow wore a scarf-style halter dress by Ralph Lauren.

Donna Karan dressed Deborah Harry in a draped dress with plunging Vs in both the front and back; Christina Milian wore a flowing gown with jeweled straps by Max Azria Atelier; and Vera Wang created a bright red satin coat with a velvet tie waistband for Thalia.

Bebe Neuwirth strode down the catwalk in a Narciso Rodriguez empire-waist dress with the designer's signature architectural lines. Kai Milla created a pleated-front, flowing gown for Eartha Kitt and Charles Nolan made a short, poncholike dress for Elaine Stritch, who is 81. Nolan probably wanted to show off Stritch's noticeably toned legs.