Fashion File: A Nostalgic Look From the '20s through the '80s

Another Fashion Week has come and is almost gone in New York City's Bryant Park.

This year's show took a decidedly global view, with more than 25 designers from Africa, Portugal, Hong Kong, Japan, Italy, France and Britain debuting new collections, and fashion powerhouses such as Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Michael Kors showing off their wares.

Starting Sept. 14 with a look ahead to men's Spring/Summer 2001 style and continuing on through Sept. 22, with a look ahead at next year's spring fashions for women, designers this year have so far taken on a decidedly nostalgic air — evoking looks from the 1920s to the early '80s — with a modern flair.

A look ahead to the fashion world's spring collections:

Halston, Bill Blass

These two lines are fashion's old-time powerhitters, and they brought out the luxury, featuring gowns and dresses dripping with lace, beads and embroidery.

The Halston line, now under the control of designer Craig Natiello (Halston himself died in 1990), went for opulence, showing gleaming bronze leather, gold lace skirts and pants, blond cashmere and items dripping with gold sequins that he dubbed the "Fort Knox" look.

Glancing back to the 70s and 80s (Halston's heyday), he showed an Ultrasuede suit and shirtdress, diamond tennis bracelets and Deco" pants covered in orange, blue and yellow beads.

Bill Blass stepped down from his namesake house last year, and the Blass line is now helmed by Steven Slowick. Slowick came through with flying colors, sending out familiar signatures and decorated printed silk dresses with bright embroidered butterflies and iridescent opal sequins.

"First, I talked with Mr. Blass and literally interviewed him, and we discussed the spirit of Bill Blass," Slowick said after the show. "I wanted to integrate that with my own touch."

Oscar de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta's exercise in retro elegance included dramatic, bright dresses and gowns combined with sunny colors that evoked a Palm Beach look with the graceful sleek lines for which he is known.

He also borrowed some 1980s looks, such as the bubble skirt, and showed a number of creations that should properly be called "show pieces": an orange suede halter top bedecked with chunks of quartz and pink ostrich feather blouses.

"There's a great sense of fantasy to my collection, especially in evening," the designer said.

Betsey Johnson, Nicole Miller

Meanwhile, designer Betsey Johnson took a different tactic. Her spring fashion show, titled "Playboy Bunnies," featured centerfold models from the fabled men's magazine strutting down the catwalk in outfits that elicited gasps and giggles from spectators.

While Johnson's show was over the top, designer Nicole Miller's collection featured understated sportswear staples like jersey tank dresses and trousers-plus-tank tops in lilac, pink and black, with a few throwbacks to the 1980s such as shirt dresses with large, wide belts, geometric prints and gold chain details thrown into the mix.

The Politics of Fashion

Early in the week Karenna Gore Schiff, Ron Reagan and Billy Baldwin turned up for the spring showing of Kenneth Cole, the politically oriented designer.

On the runway, Cole revisited the '70s, with hippie-look patchwork suede in lime and tan, tie-dyed hot pants and hip-slung long pants just this side of legal, and enough metallic shine on flared leather pants to light up a disco.

Michael Kors, Ellen Tracy, BCBG

American designer Michael Kors headed southwest, presenting a show that he described as "desert divas." His work brought a return to the earthy 70s, with muslin skirts, embroidered eyelet cotton blouses and off-the-shoulder linen peasant shirts using a palette of sienna, smoke, cactus green and black, dotted with bright touches of cornflower and poppy.

Ralph Lauren, who has featured Southwest-inspired lines in the past, went geometric with stripes, chevron borders, leather and lace in black, white and brown.

At Tuesday's Ellen Tracy preview, abbreviated shorts appeared in everything from gold or white pearlized leather to black and white gingham, along with bare legs and high-heel sandals.

Elsewhere on the fashion circuit, BCBG, often a harbinger of the season's trends, showed off transparent fabrics that flirted with bareness, A-line trench coats, metallic shine and prints either floral or geometric and soft shades. Everything seemed to be contained in the season's wrap belt.


Some designers chose to avoid the crowded tents at Bryant Park. Geoffrey Beene, a pillar of the fashion industry whose first label appeared in 1963, presented his spring collection on mannequins in a Manhattan showroom rather than on the runway, letting him show off the intricate detail and lush fabric for which he is known.

The Associated Press, Reuters and the New York Post's Libby Callaway contributed to this report