After the moody, broody looks for fall, American designers cleared the air for spring with easy, breezy, feminine clothes.

The feeling was exemplified by Cynthia Steffe, whose collection was inspired by visions of Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot running around St. Tropez circa 1960.

Photo Essay: New York Fashion Week

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The Dress

The star of the season was the dress. Dresses marched down the runway in ultra-feminine silhouettes, and came in a plethora of shapes and styles. Popular were the A-lines, the strapless poufs, the baby dolls, shifts, columns, trapeze shapes and the sundresses.

They also appeared in wonderful colors and fabrics. For day, dresses were either very short or just above the knee. They can be worn to the office with flats or to an after-work cocktail party with strappy heels.

Proportions

“Clean, controlled volume, bold, eclectic fabric mixes. Think Marie Antoinette, but deconstructed,” said designer Peter Som.

Volume was raised to a crescendo and played an integral role in every article of clothing produced for the spring collections. Everything was pumped up — even simple little sheath dresses.

The evidence was in the addition of pouffy sleeves to blouses, the bubble skirts, the full trousers and long Grecian goddess dresses for evening. The waistline, which has been traveling north since fall, was noncommittal.

Designers played with empire waists and dropped waists and some found their way in the middle. Both volume and the easing of seams are forgiving to all body types. These new proportions allow women to move with greater ease whether getting into a car or out on the dance floor. Are designers finally getting the message that all women are not a size 4?

Color

Black and white is always right for spring. This season we also saw the addition of a neutral palette with cream, sand and tiny subtleties of blushes. Just for shock value we were hit with brights such as yellow, pomegranate and cobalt blue. The runways also radiated with metallic of silver, and gold for day and night. The canvas for the season was also captivated by new whimsical prints of florals, dots and stripes.

Fabrication

The lightness of the collections was achieved by the fabrication. Layering and mixing of textures was elevated to a new art form with the use of organza, gorgeous feather-light knits and gossamer chiffons. All played a hand in giving clothes a sumptuous, light touch.

Lace, crochet, eyelet, beading and embroidery gave clothes their romantic expression and added a very sophisticated, modern feeling.

Separates

Separates may become an endangered species. Day dresses, considered dowdy just a few seasons ago, are now all the rage. Once women get a taste of the ease of one-piece dressing, they may never want to go back to mixing and matching.

Skirts

Skirts may have played a supporting role to the star of the show — the dress — but are still worthy of honorable mention.

Skirts were made light and airy through tailoring features of nips, fold and tucks, and had a flirty, girly feel. They came layered with ruffles, in swing shapes, paneled with inserts, in A-line shapes and always the ubiquitous pencil skirt. Many had surface interests of pleating, rouching, appliqués and flounces. The pouffy skirt and bubble hem skirt are still big players.

Tops and Blouses

Deconstruction was the name of the game for blouses and tops. The classic button-down shirts we have hanging in the closet will feel very wrong next spring. With a nod to the Victorian era, blouses have been given a new feminine flair. Proportions have loosened and many dressmaking details have been added.

Blouses appeared fluid yet very complex, with volume again playing a big role. Blouses with bell sleeves and ruffles in the most unpredictable places were often edged with lace and crochet details.

Necklines were open to interpretation from the collarless variety to off-the-shoulder slouching, or laced-up with a long, tied bow. Camisoles were often used to give sheer tops a sense of propriety. These new shapes offer a generous helping of chic when paired with the full-volume skirts.

Jackets and Coats

Jackets followed the path of the blouse and came in unpredictable shapes. Most popular were the short trapeze shapes with the flyaway back interest, and the jackets with portrait collars. The homage to Audrey Hepburn was evidenced in many collections by little cocktail coats with bell sleeves that come with matching dresses.

Trousers

The season’s mood for ease and comfort followed suit when it came to trousers.

Pleats are back and legs are wide. Trousers only made a cameo appearance and were absent at many shows.

The craze of leggings turned out to be a one-season wonder. Although it did appear in a handful of shows, it did not make an impact. Shorts for spring are much cooler. They were cut dramatically thigh-high for the runway, but on the selling floor will morph into the city walking short that was so popular this past summer.

Shoes

The high, clunky wedge is here to stay. They look very right when juxtaposed with the very light, airy proportions of short dresses. Wedge shoes give you the height when you want it without the pain of wearing a stiletto for more than one hour.

Also looking very modern is the ballet flat, which was seen at many collections paired with beautiful, elegant evening dresses.

Hair and Makeup

Fresh and natural with a hit of sultry sums up the spring look for hair and makeup. Skin is matte, which echoes the neutral pallette in the clothes; maybe we are getting the message that there is no safe tan. Eyes are smoky through the use of eye shadow that is well-blended and smudged. Lips are pale, and hair is tussled for an element of sexiness.

The Cold Shoulder

The most exposed body parts, besides arms and legs, were the shoulders. There is not one woman who can complain about her shoulders. They don’t get fat, they don’t sag or wrinkle and if you want to show some skin for spring the shoulder will give you lots of exposure.

Spring Must-Haves:

Several dresses

A chiffon top with ruffles

A camisole to layer under sheer tops

A city short

A full skirt

An off-the-shoulder T-shirt

A metallic tank for day

A high clunky wedge shoe

Ballet slippers

Something floral

A big bejeweled handbag

Special Thanks

This writer wants to acknowledge Fern Mallis, VP at IMG, the organization that brings us New York Fashion Week twice a year. Her vision brought American designers under one roof and made seeing the fall and spring shows a workable and fun experience.

Photo Essay: New York Fashion Week

Click Here for the Fashion and Lifestyles Center