- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) - At New York Fashion Week on Wednesday, the designers weren’t just looking to their muses for inspiration _ they were raiding the muses’ closets.

The draped, asymmetrical Greek goddess look dominated, complementing the one-shoulder styles that have been so popular on the runways.

The look was strong and sexy without being revealing, and popped up with a sexy ‘70s spin at Halston, in a fresh gingham at Michael Kors and in a flowy drape at Max Azria. Nearly every designer had an interpretation of the look _ quite a feat with more than 100 designers showing at New York Fashion Week over eight days.

However the look is achieved, it’s clear: The bare shoulder, which emerges and retreats depending on the fashions of the times, has reclaimed its starring role.

OSCAR DE LA RENTA

There’s a difference between youthful and young. Oscar de la Renta, one of the statesmen of American fashion, found ways to add vitality to a spring collection that still caters to his sophisticated, uptown woman.

Tie-dye looks anything but hippyish when presented on a gathered silk faille skirt, paired with either a white cotton blouse with an embroidered flower applique or a taffeta jacket. And the crocheted styles on de la Renta’s runway at a former Park Avenue church included a chic navy sweater in a geometric pattern and a white sweater-dress shift.

Several of the gowns _ always the highlight of a de la Renta collection _ were sultry because of their shimmer and shape but not because they were too bare.

MICHAEL KORS

With a yellow polka-dot bikini on the runway and a soundtrack that included the Beach Boys and the Go-Gos, even a crowd growing weary of New York Fashion Week _ now in day six _ couldn’t help but get into Michael Kors’ cheerful, bouncy show.

Kors, in his notes, described the collection as “Triple A … architectural, athletic and American.”

The sporty touch came in scuba-style neoprene, which can make a remarkably stylish skirt suit especially in royal blue. There also was a zip-front, tech-fabric surf dress in royal and black that was flattering and ready for anything. For men, there were cotton trousers in a floral print you’d expect to see on board shorts worn with a yellow sailcloth blazer.

The catwalk oozed red, white and blue, with pops of yellow, and there were a lot of classic Kors outfits: a chunky white, turtleneck sweater dress with long cardigan, a crisp navy and red macintosh coat with a cashmere pullover and a hemp-crushed gabardine clamdigger, and a red and blue sheath worn with a shiny white patent leather belt.

NARCISO RODRIGUEZ

If other designers have tapped spring as the season of the corset, Narciso Rodriguez isn’t buying it.

Rodriguez is a master of tight construction and the bustier-style bodice, but he veered from his signature in his newest collection, previewed Tuesday night in front of Jessica Alba and celebrity loyalists Claire Danes, Julianna Margulies and Jessica Seinfeld _ all of whom rarely miss a Rodriguez show.

Instead of a corset, Rodriguez achieved a slim, fitted silhouette with banding, while other spring-season outfits embraced the looser, draped look that also has emerged as a trend.

It was all classic Rodriguez, though, thanks to the architectural construction.

NANETTE LEPORE

Like many of the designers at New York Fashion Week, Nanette Lepore found inspiration in the garden, previewing a new collection full of florals. But Lepore must have done her wandering through the greenery in the evening as her prints had a more delicate, dustier tone, tempering the teal, lime, red and hibiscus pink that dominated the palette.

She was aiming for “sultry femininity,” Lepore said in her notes to the audience that included familiar faces from “The Hills,” Lauren Conrad and Lauren Bosworth.

The silhouette generally was the loose and easy shape that has become a signature of the spring collections, and she alternated between casual linen fabrics and jazzy beads as favorite materials. She successfully mixed prints _ stripes, florals and animal prints _ in single garments.

She also tapped into the asymmetrical trend, which added an ethereal goddess vibe to many of the dresses, even a leather dress that had a ruffle down one side.

MONIQUE LHUILLIER

Monique Lhuillier is primarily known as a bridal and red-carpet designer but her spring collection showed her ability to pull off more relaxed looks, too _ even if they’re best suited to a really luxurious resort.

“This season I used dry crisp fabrics, straw-braiding techniques, basket patterns and wave prints,” the designer wrote in her notes to the crowd at Tuesday’s show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

She offered outfits in billowy chiffon, feminine organza and, surprisingly, denim. A pleated cocktail dress with embroidered Aztec cap sleeves elevated denim to a whole new category. There also was a chambray jacquard cocktail dress with a crisscross pleated halter top that was lovely.

Goddess gowns really ruled this runway, especially a black one-shoulder gown with a gold-ribbon embroidered neckline and one with a white silk georgette halter.

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