Fashion’s newness coming from old-school Hollywood

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NEW YORK (AP) - Marlene Dietrich is having a moment. The runways of New York Fashion Week are paying homage to the late star’s sultry, glamorous but sometimes slightly mannish style.

On the second of eight days of previews for next season, Friday’s newness largely came from this old-school Hollywood star.

Dietrich’s “balance of smoldering femininity and masculine garb was the starting point for the mood,” explained Peter Som in his notes for editors, stylists and retailers. His collection was filled with modest-yet body-conscious silhouettes. A top look was the peek-a-boo effect of slim sheaths and pencil skirts covered with a glossy organza that often extended the hemline or covered the arms.

“She, like Katharine Hepburn, wore pants but still looked like a woman. She wore menswear and androgynous style with a sexiness,” said Catherine Moellering, executive vice president of The Tobe Report, a trend-tracking service.

Jason Wu said in a pre-show interview that he aimed to interpret different elements of historical Chinese fashion through the lens of Dietrich’s 1932 film “Shanghai Express.”

“I don’t need to say any more about Marlene Dietrich, or that time and place. It all has such strong features,” Wu said.

Dietrich also was an inspiration for Tadashi Shoji, who previewed his looks Thursday. And Rag & Bone, showing Friday, took inspiration from Asian culture, while Yigal Azrouel used tailoring to give structure to the looser silhouette that also seems to be emerging this week as a trend.

Here are some of the looks shown Friday.

JASON WU

Jason Wu has been considered a strong up-and-comer since Michelle Obama wore a gown by the then-barely known designer to the presidential inaugural balls in 2008. A Target deal put a limited collection in stores earlier this month, and Wu’s confidence was evident in a dramatic show that was also highly personal, with Chinese-influenced styles inspired partly by a trip 18 months ago to Taiwan, where he grew up.

The runway show had studded fortress doors, billowing smoke and a theatrical finale. The clothes tapped into Chinese military uniforms with Mao jackets, grommets, strong shoulders and capes, with the best look in the show opener: a green coat with attached cape and black lace. Tassels, embroideries and brocades drew on ornate costumes worn by empresses, with references to 1930s and `40s Hollywood, where traditional Chinese dress was reinterpreted in movies like Marlene Dietrich’s “Shanghai Express.”

The result? Puffy jackets in glitzy brocade.

The lingering look from this collection, though, is likely the finale: a black wool jacket with epaulets and mink trim covered in crystal embroidery paired with a black skirt etched with fabric through a process known as devore.

PETER SOM

Peter Som’s fall collection had below-the-knee hemlines, covered sleeves and wrap-style coats. It felt very modern and sexy _ never dowdy _ thanks to Som’s creative use of sheer fabrics, especially a glossy organza that topped pencil skirts and slim sheaths. He showed awareness of a woman’s body while never clinging to it. He used architectural shapes and clean lines to draw attention to the waist and a woman’s curves, but that added layer _ whether it was the organza or a peplum _ gave her a little freedom.

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