NEW YORK (AP) - If there was a single message to take away from New York Fashion Week, it was this: Take it easy, fashionistas.
Languid, fluid styles were dominant in the eight days of spring previews that wrapped up on Thursday. Silhouettes were long and loose, sometimes billowy, in chiffon, tulle and silk.
It was a far cry from the warrior look that has dominated the runways in recent seasons, and it reflected a new optimism that also came through in the use of white and sheer fabrics.
"I think the collections have been very optimistic. The best of them have been very colorful and pretty and romantic," said Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour.
The final day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week featured the return of Gwen Stefani and her LAMB collection to the runway and shows by heavyweights Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta. Now fashion insiders take off to London, Milan and Paris.
Easy, fluid and chic have been three of the favorite words at New York Fashion Week _ and that was before the Calvin Klein collection debuted. Now, you can add sexy, smart and glamorous.
Minimal has long been the mantra of Calvin Klein, but Franciso Costa made the most for spring of each fold of fabric. He showed a masterful understanding of how clothes look on the body, and how to use that to the wearer's advantage. A delicate little tie hugged the models wearing pleated dresses, and the silk crepe V-neck dress was evocative of a slinky-yet-sophisticated robe.
The one potential misstep was the extra chunk of fabric added to already long-length trousers. But one reminder of the back-wrap silk halter dress that opened the show, and all is forgiven.
And those racer-back gowns were oh-so sultry. Will we see front-row guest Katie Holmes in one of them soon?
Costa doesn't normally pay much attention to trends but this time he nailed the defining look of the season.
OSCAR DE LA RENTA
Oscar de la Renta gave the audience what it wanted out of his new spring collection: clothes for the big bashes.
The "oohs" and "aahs" reverberated through de la Renta's preferred Park Avenue venue for favorites including a dress with a black silk faille bodice and ivory swansdown skirt (yes _ feathers!) and a black lace gown with embroidered beads that was paired with a black-tulle powder puff of a bolero _ both boasting de la Renta's signature glamour and luxury. There's no need for de la Renta to reinvent the wheel, after all.
Several styles had 1950s influences, which the designer reinforced by playing The Platters' "Only You," bringing the crowd to the chicest high-school prom one could imagine.
But then the collection jumped to the Miami scene of the 1970s _ this season's favorite retro moment _ with an ivory-and-green leaf embroidered gown and the more flamenco-inspired faille and point-d-esprit ruffle gown.
Ralph Lauren's romance with the American West continues. The twists on this runway were the silver sparkle, the ultra-luxe deerskin and sheer fabrics turning up in unexpected places.
Lauren employed traditional touches, such as leather fringe and oversized belt buckles, but there was a freshness and femininity to the clothes, especially the lace pieces.
A beautiful tulle embroidered blouse with a high neck, worn with an off-white leather fringed jacket and off-white linen shorts with crochet stripes down the side, kicked off the show and set the mood. Lauren's days at the ranch are far more glamorous than your typical cowboy _ there might be a need for a deerskin, beaded vest or fringed pants.
For evening, there was a honey-colored beaded, fringed long skirt with an embroidered blouse with hand crochet details, and a blush-pink georgette gown with gentle ruffles and unfinished edges around the V-neck.
Isaac Mizrahi couldn't be bothered with little details _ bows, buttons, pockets and the like _ for his spring styles?
Mizrahi called his collection "IM Xerox," and most of the embellishment, save the sequins, were printed onto the fabric.
The opening look had those scan-effect pockets and buttons, another outfit had a faux corsage. A fashion-forward celebrity could wear the black strapless column gown with the illusion bow around the bust and generate some headlines.
Mizrahi then substituted collars and cuffs with jewelry. It was typical playful, inventive Mizrahi.
Then there were the styles that largely fit into this season, the sheer blush-colored coat over a ladylike strapless dress, the pajama pants-and-tunic combination in a pink floral print and the tuxedo, his done with a short jacket and polka-dot pants.
Gwen Stefani put on an encore for the fashion world Thursday night, the last big event of New York Fashion Week.
Stefani sent out mostly African-tribal looks, including some flirty dresses with mixed prints, a short shift with full mosiac-pattern beading and a white tuxedo with hand beading down the sides of the legs of the skinny trousers. There were some softer, pretty looks _ a silk chiffon dress with ruffled shoulders, among them _ and she even sneaked in a tailored menswear-style pantsuit.
This marked the return of LAMB to the main runways of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week after staging much smaller presentations in recent seasons. In an interview Wednesday, Stefani said she was excited _ but more nervous than before a musical performance.
"With fashion, I'm now asking if I can play in your house, even though I didn't grow up in your neighborhood," she said.
From day to the dark of night, Proenza Schouler has its girls covered.
The spring collection presented Wednesday night by designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez moved almost seamlessly from tweed suits to bra tops, only skipping a few beats with a loose dress or two with some misplaced ruffles around the middle.
The skirt suits stayed youthful thanks to strategic flashes of neon brights and mix-and-match textures, while the lingerie looks were always above board because they were romantic _ even suggestive _ but not bawdy. A languid trouser was paired with a black-and-white tweed chiffon jacket, and some blouson dresses featured an ink-blot print.
The duo hit many of the must-haves to come out of these spring previews: the pants of the season, the mismatched textures, a hint of the boudoir, said Kristina O'Neill, Harper Bazaar's executive editor, "but they nailed the trends in a very Proenza way."
Reed Krakoff's spring 2011 collection was all about juxtapositions of rich materials _ wool and silk mohair, lacquered silks, double-faced cotton sateens.
Krakoff said his centerpiece for the collection shown Wednesday was a new kind of suit, with emphasis on quality and luxury with a utilitarian construction.
He also used boar hair on shoes and cuff bracelets, which were inspired by dog collars made by the hair during Victorian times. "I liked the idea that it was kind of aggressive but kind of subversive, but at the same time it was quite luxurious," he said.
He said that the idea was "recombining things to look fresh," like the combination of transparent and opaque fabrics.
Nanette Lepore gave the weary fashion crowd the respite they were looking for: soothing music, thanks to John Forte and his three-man band; wearable, adorable clothes and an overall relaxed vibe.
No thumping, pumping sounds, nothing complicated or fussy on the runway.
Lepore's spring collection furthered the upbeat attitude of this round of previews, but hers perhaps was one of the most relatable shows for consumers. The model in the rose beaded sundress could have just continued off that catwalk, caught a cab and gone shopping or to a museum or to meet a friend. The friend, perhaps, was in the shell drawstring coat and striped sweater dress.
Lepore, by nature, seems not to be a big risktaker, but she knows what her fans like and she does it well and with consistency. She hit on the retooling of the '70s and the tropical palette that have emerged as trends.
AP writer Lisa Orkin Emmanuel contributed to this report.