NEW YORK – If the world needs another sign that Britney Spears' look is yesterday's news, check out New York Fashion Week.
Gone are the skin-centric, tummy-revealing and possibly private part-exposing trends that Spears and friends like Paris Hilton made ubiquitous. Instead, designers are embracing modesty, using sheer fabrics and lingerie looks to subtly hint at sexiness.
It's an extension of the ladylike trends for fall; designers seem to have made the collective decision that a lot of skin isn't in.
On Tuesday, Monique Lhuillier presented sophisticated, fluid looks that celebrate a woman's shape without squeezing it. Carmen Marc Valvo showed tasteful swimwear with plenty of coverage, flattering pintucks and low leg openings. Even pantyhose made a comeback over the weekend at the Derek Lam show.
Of course, every rule has an exception. Marc Jacobs bucked the trend on Monday with plenty of glimpses of bras, slips and tap pants -- but the show was more of an artistic statement than a presentation of wearable fashions.
New York Fashion Week wraps up Wednesday after an eight-day preview of the spring-summer looks of 100 or so designers.
Marc Jacobs presented his spring collection late Monday night to a packed crowd that had been waiting for two hours.
But it looked like he could have used a little more time. Models were wearing what Jacobs called "scrap tops" and "one-half gowns" -- clothes that one presumes were left unfinished to make an ironic statement -- thus, giving the audience plenty of glimpses of their silk, satin and crepe bras, slips and tap pants.
On their own, individual elements of the outfits, such as a black lace cape or a moire sleeveless trench coat, were very attractive, but wearable clothes weren't the point here.
The entire show was staged backward, beginning with his bow, then the finale and then running through the looks, starting with No. 56 and ending with No. 1, a denim cape and sequined gown. Some of the shoes had heels built sideways into the uppers, while others skimmed so low on the heel they looked too small for the models.
Even with all this "message," the collection largely fit into some of the more important trends emerging from New York Fashion Week: color-blocking, sheer overlays, sequins, and nude and natural colors with bright pops from purple, pink and orange.
And now for something completely different: Calvin Klein's spring collection was neither feminine nor rich in detail. It wasn't candy-colored nor rooted in nature's neutral colors. No ruffles. No sequins.
The collection designer Francisco Costa turned out Tuesday had a unique streamlined and sophisticated look that had been virtually absent from the runways at New York Fashion Week, bucking every trend along the way.
Half the outfits were a creamy white color, and another, say, 25 percent were various shades of gray. The only pops of color came from a few green dresses near the end of the presentation, held in the sparse, industrial-looking ground floor of the company's Garment District office building.
The clothes, ranging from the opening ensemble -- a notch-collar seamless jacket with a stretch, string-back bodysuit and long, high-waisted pencil skirt -- to an almost floor-length satin organza dress with molded short sleeves, were serene and elegant.
A group of double-panel dresses were light and delicate, while the trouser looks, some with skinny legs, others with wide legs and all with high waists -- were long and lean.
She might have put dozens of prom queens on the runway, but Betsey Johnson was the belle of the ball.
She took her bow in the company of her granddaughter Layla -- they wore matching tutus and silver ballet shoes -- kissed a male model half her age and then did her customary cartwheels, much to the delight of the crowd at the Bryant Park tents.
Johnson's show is a traditional high point of New York Fashion Week, not so much for the styles on the runway but because it's always a high-energy, happy event. The theme this season was prom-worthy party dresses inspired by each decade from the 1950s through now.
She brought back glittery candy-colored versions of '50s strapless dresses with big poufs, along with sleeker, body-hugging '60s dresses and a yellow off-the-shoulder gown from the '70s.
The '80s was an era of look-at-me fashion, and Johnson captured that look with a "punk party dress" that was a short strapless number with a tiers of hot pink satin over tiers of black lace. The '90s were, apparently, more nondescript.
And for Johnson, the 2000s have been political. The last runway look was worn simultaneously by four models in tiny red lace tap pants and giant silver letters on their backs that spelled V-O-T-E.
Red-carpet princess Monique Lhuillier turned out a series of pretty dresses that are sure to make her starlets happy.
The spring collection, however, strayed from the volume and all the jeweled embellishment that have been her hallmark in recent seasons, instead offering mostly sophisticated, fluid looks.
The last look might have been the best example: a black chiffon gown with a fitted corset bodice and a draped skirt that came together in a bow at the waist. There were plenty of more colorful options, including seafoam-colored chiffon strapless gown with draping all over the top -- down below the hips -- and then a billowy handkerchief hem and a nude-colored chiffon crisscross draped bodice gown.
These fashion confections -- inspired by Laduree macaroons -- carried through to some outstanding daytime outfits, including a light yellow metallic tweed suit with a shawl-collar jacket and a slim pencil skirt worn with a cream-colored V-neck halter blouse with ruffles down the front.
But even when you're dealing with such dainty, delicate details, there can be too much of a good thing and one dress -- a one-shoulder tulle gown with seemingly endless tiers covered with light green flowers -- was just too much of everything.
There's been a lot of talk about happy, sunny clothes as spring collections are previewed on the runway. But, until the Anna Sui show Monday night, there hadn't been many signs of happy, sunny models.
Apparently all it takes to make the catwalkers come to life are colorful wigs, playful clothes and a soundtrack that includes the old Andrews Sisters hit "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."
The first look on the runway was a bolero with black sequins, a multicolored diamond-print blouse and plaid shorts. Is someone likely to wear it to work next season? Probably not, but it sure looks good on the runway.
For those who are indeed looking for Sui to provide real-world wardrobe solutions, she offered a plaid jacket-and-jumpsuit set -- worn with a colorful print blouse underneath -- as well as a white-and-black, Art Deco-themed dress. For parties, there were several pairs of flutter shorts with tiers of ruffles on the behind and a shirtdress with a plaid pattern featured on a sheer fabric.
A black-and-white striped sateen coat worn with a bow blouse and white linen shorts had a 1970s vibe, as well as many of the scarf- and shirtdresses done in prints with bold colors.
CARMEN MARC VALVO
Carmen Marc Valvo is a consistent source of gala-worthy eveningwear and splashy swimwear, so what was unexpected was the strength of the daywear.
Two of the best outfits on the runway at the Bryant Park tents were a raw-silk officer's jacket in a sandy color with gold buttons, worn with a brown organza blouse with a cascading ruffle down the front and a tropical wool "mariner's" pants that hit mid-calf, and super-sophisticated organza trench coat in a light oyster color. The coat was paired with an attractive brief-style navy swimsuit, but it actually seemed a waste of such a good topper.
In his notes, Valvo said he aimed to craft clothes to dress the sirens of the sea, tempting them with seashell colors and mimicking the ocean's ripples with ruffles.
White silk gazar made a strapless corset with fanlike pleats light and airy, and it looked chic with black cocktail pants -- a pleasant break from the harder-to-wear cocktail shorts that have seem to have been all over other catwalks.
Valvo's dresses included a cerulean-blue cocktail dress with pleated ribbon appliques and a delicate white gown with a feminine ruffled back.