- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - It’s time for the well-heeled women who shop from New York Fashion Week runways to pull themselves up by their bootstraps _ preferably Christian Louboutins _ and carry off clothes rooted in strength, confidence and even toughness.

Even glamorous Victoria Beckham, rarely seen without stilettos on, sent some of her models down the runway Sunday in motorcycle boots. (They were indeed Louboutins.)

The fiercer, fitted looks are a contrast to the flowing, airy silhouettes that dominated the spring season. Adam Glassman, creative director of O, The Oprah Magazine, said it likely is time for something new.

Structured pieces also hang well on racks in stores _ and are flattering on many figures, he noted. “The military shapes and jackets give good shape to a woman, from her shoulders to her waist,” he said.

In addition to military influences and menswear looks for women, other themes emerging by Day 4, halfway through the previews for next season, include leather (Derek Lam, Thakoon Panichgul), python prints (big at Carmen Marc Valvo) and other textured fabrics. Skaist-Taylor, the new brand from Juicy Couture founders Pam Skaist and Gela Taylor, used a print they called “cowhide.”

Traditional fall hues like black, loden green, wine and plum have ruled the runways, but white, an unusual choice for the season, has had a strong showing, too. Lela Rose on Sunday showed an ivory silk crepe collared sheath, an ivory silk cloque dress with embroidered shoulders and a white silver mosaic embroidered dress.

VICTORIA BECKHAM

Victoria Beckham offered a no-nonsense, tough-girl fall collection: shiny python shirt-style collars on second-skin dresses with gold hardware and zip-back striped sheaths. Interesting twists included dresses with epaulets but no sleeves to hang them on, and harness-style backs on dresses that had high necks in the front. There was a hint of a schoolgirl vibe in some looks with the collars and flared-hem skirts.

Gone from this collection were the looser shapes Beckham had been experimenting with in past seasons.

This was Beckham’s sexy, sophisticated look to the core. OK, the exception might be the motorcycle boots that one can’t imagine Beckham giving up her stilettos for.

DKNY

For her DKNY brand, Donna Karan wrapped up models in high-neck aviator coats and fitted blazers but gave them flirty short skirts with bouncy hemlines. She put them in cozy collars and feminine bow-neck blouses.

Even more diversity came from the textures: embossed crocodile, shiny leather, cozy shearling, sexy sheers and slim twill. When she tired of black, which Karan really never does, she switched to navy, gray or the occasional flash of red.

TRACY REESE

Bold juniper green, lame in gold and violet and a tomato orange lit up Tracy Reese’s runway in pants, dresses, skirts, sweaters and coats long and short.

Reese heavily embellished sleeveless and short-sleeve cocktail dresses with metallic beading front and back. She put feminine fringe on loose, cozy sweaters and combination bowler-baseball caps on the heads of her models.

Much of her outerwear was a crowd pleaser, including a shimmery gold coat belted at the waist. She did another in lemon yellow and a third was cropped with a feminine peplum.

Reese had fun with jacquards, enlarging one in black and white in a cropped jacket and mini skirt. She used colored jacquards and leaf motifs throughout.

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG

Diane von Furstenberg, who as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America is the de facto leader of the U.S. fashion community, used jigsaw puzzle pieces as a prominent theme of her fall collection. There was a puzzle print on a pink sleeveless dress, and laser-cut pieces on a black embellished one. A model carried a puzzle-box bag.

Von Furstenberg alternated between sophisticated, simple and sometimes smoldering jersey dresses in dark colors and fun cocktail numbers in bright, almost tropical shades of pink, lime green and bright blue.

CARMEN MARC VOLVO

Carmen Marc Valvo offered a palette of ivory, black, camel and deep reds and browns, and used illusion effects, with sheaths sparkling in sequins and insets in a suede python print on waists, chests and backs. A python pattern was created from small double-face wool pieces sewn onto netting. He then placed his snake over a silk sheath underlay in champagne.

He included some looks he hopes will land on red carpets this year: a four-ply silk crepe illusion gown in ruby and another of the same style in a lively moss.

Valvo also went full-on fur in an ombre mink patchwork coat in a light camel with a darker back and in wide mink stoles wrapped around the necks of models. He used shaggy black goat fur on the sleeves of a jacket and feathered fox in oatmeal for a sumptuous vest.

A belted ivory coat had simple lines, a similar cut in camel and a cashmere cocktail dress in moss with straight, tight sleeves just above the elbow.

THAKOON PANICHGUL

Thakoon Panichgul, a favorite of first lady Michelle Obama, designed a line heavy with bright neon colors and rich materials. Panichgul mixed the refined, like a black satin sleeved dress, with the modern _ a striking red and orange print he calls “neon beam.”

Red leather, red lipstick and shiny red high heels were also prominent. He paired a fuchsia fur knit sweater with a raspberry patent skirt that had a paper bag waist. He ruched red leather at the biceps and waist for a dress and used a hearts-and-lips print for a jacquard bomber jacket.

The collection was filled with outerwear inspired dresses, from a black satin tuxedo jacket dress to a crinkled deep blue trench coat dress.

DEREK LAM

Derek Lam offered lovely chunky but sleeveless sweaters on a cold day, one black, one white, each paired with a long silk georgette evening skirt of the same color.

Lam also had an ivory shearling and a series of nice pea coats, in white or navy wool, or, even warmer, in shearling, plus a black-and-white tweed jacquard coat, paired with black lambskin trousers.

Other practical yet pretty and luxurious looks from Lam included shoes _ a gold patent leather oxford and a black lizard oxford with a gold toe. In prints, he favored both a floral satin _ in a jacket, a T-shirt, and a coat _ and a paisley jacquard, in a black-and-white dress or T-shirt, or a gold-and-black skirt.

Shiny leather also played a prominent role, not only in trousers, but also in dresses _ such as a white lambskin dress paired with a black lambskin turtleneck, or a wine-colored cap sleeve lambskin dress, also paired with its own turtle.

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Associated Press writers Leanne Italie, Jocelyn Noveck and Caryn Rousseau contributed to this report.

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