The fashion crowd was all smiles to have Byron Lars back after missing a season.
The only African-American designer with his own label is known for showmanship and craftsmanship.
It was the cartoon soap story of Trayla Parker, who leaves her mobile home in search of city chic. Trayla is transformed into a socialite by deft tailoring and sensational accessories.
Fitted '40s suits as done by Lars have more nip and curve than their conservative cousins and it's all done with pleating and seaming.
While some designers slashed tight skirts to make them walkable, Lars showed some of the sexiest kick-pleats around.
He also showed feather-trimmed coats, trailing stoles and piles of faux fur on collars and hems.
As if that wasn't quite enough trim, a live, pocketbook-sized pooch was added every now and then to fluff things up a tad.
The queen of prints got lost in the snow early in her show, sending out ensembles based on a black and white snowflake knit pattern -- cute by junior standards but not at all amusing to a tough fashion crowd.
After 16 variations on this theme there were some mutinous stirrings. Ms. Miller dug herself out just in time with some plaid and shearling jackets paired with stretch satin and jersey.
Her program theme -- far, far East and way out West -- mixed traditional Chinese designs with Dale Evans styling. Remarkable cowboy boots were stitched in porcelain patterns and buttoned with knots.
We'll meditate a while on this kung fu cowgirl philosophy.
Meanwhile, we'll take the polished black stretch shirt suit.
Skirts here were blessedly short, a vervy look after many down and dowdy propositions.
Understated and easy, that's the allure of American design. And nobody does it better than Ralph Lauren. After a fling in the Scottish Highlands last year, he's back home and making the most of it. His inspirations are the American icons of style.
Katharine Hepburn, who can wear trousers and tulle with equal aplomb, was brought to mind by easy pantsuits with a greatcoat tossed over the shoulders.
There were deep-piled camel hair coats favored by Grace Kelly before she took to princessing. Suits, dresses and gowns were molded to the female figure without a suggestion of tartiness.
Conservative doesn't have to be dull.
Women's Wear Daily headlined his collection "The Great Tight Hope" and it was. Lauren has hopes, too. Left out of the Oscar fashion parade, he's hinting for next year. In the evening finale of liquid metallic slinks, the last model on the runway carried an Oscar.
Bill Blass, one of the old hands at American design, proved that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Not one to jump on the trend of the moment, Blass sent out classics with just enough spin to maintain his status as a designer of note.
He trimmed tweed and plaid suits with contrast fur and velvet and lavished leopard spots on over-size muffs, mufflers and chiffon evening dresses. His trench coats were crisp and polished, his greatcoats soft and snuggly.
He certainly knows how to cut the best little black dress in jersey and the lengths to take with evening numbers.
A series of dresses ornamented in beading reminiscent of the paintings of Gustav Klimt are sure to become collectibles for the fashion museums.
When he saw things in black and white, it was as asymmetric gowns cut from contrasting satin and velvet. Experience says it all.
Is the empress of city sophistication going through a mid-life crisis? Would she rather do mantras than Manhattan? Donna Karan has always done smart, now she's doing intellectual. Slick corporate turnouts for doers have been replaced by serious clothes for thinkers.
For fall, she bucked the glamour and retro trends and moved into almost unrelieved black. The treatments were luxurious, yes, but the aura was introspective -- ankle-grazing skirts, sweater suits, deep shawl collars, enveloping cashmere and deep-pile velvets.
Her procession had models in clean faces, hair caught in stretch bands to reveal high and intelligent foreheads, no doubt. Mature and moneyed women who have bought into the DK philosophy before may trip in the leap from corporate to coffeehouse dressing.
DK took bows in a revealing, clingy knit under a prayer coat. The generation that first burned bras would do well to lift them out of the ashes.
Wolfgang Joop, the German newcomer showing his line in New York for the first time, doesn't seem to have room for stage nerves.
He worked the audience, winked at pals and fell right into line with his models as they paraded for the finale.
He says the only thing that scares him is "those '60s hausfrau suits."
His collection was definitely for the frauleins. Mod, yes, with some pinch and humor and bursts of color that seemed so rare during fashion week. He opened with orange and tossed in some purple, geranium and and vivid greens.
He also showed the obligatory black -- one number a thong-back bustle cocktail dress.
The collection was strong and kicky, with some hotpants and short skirts as an option for young thinkers who have some extra bucks to spend on pizazz.
Keeping fashion under control takes a strong hand.
Calvin Klein, ever the master of the clean line, keeps his head while others may be jumping over the edge. His pared-down collection was modern, basic and bare -- as simple as a clean white shirt and black trousers.
No accessories whatsoever interfered with the clean idea, not even lipstick. Even the waist-conscious cuts had fabric self-belts and buckles.
He says his collection was inspired by Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, but his designs are not for retro princesses but time travelers into the next century -- strong and structured jackets with stiff collars, boxy stand-away lines. The three-quarter length sleeves, which leave wrists bare, hint at innocence and vulnerability.
Only a master could make a dirndl skirt look modern and Calvin Klein did it again.
The great hip hope pulled the Sixties out of the thrift shop and into a semblance of style. Where other designers flopped by treating early mod too gently, Anna Sui succeeded by pulling out all the stops. It takes young thinking. She had it all -- hipster flip skirts, fluffy chubbies, stiff A-line dresses with shiny boots, loads of leopard -- and topped it off with leather and leopard babushkas. Ugly can be good. Ugly to the eye that has been there, exciting to a new generation. Who else would wear a sleeveless dress with a bubble skirt?
Black turtleneck under a black-and-white checked suit could do a generational crossover without too much ouch. The guitar-case bags, however, would be reaching.
Linda Evangelista opened the show on a scooter; Naomi Campbell closed it wearing a sequined camouflage slip. It took a heap of fun to get the big girls out on a runway.
This fall's Anne Klein collection may bring back the old loyals, thanks to young newcomer Patrick Robinson. At 28, he has solid credentials -- he was the designer for Giorgio Armani's less expensive secondary Le Collezione line. If he pulled back a little and showed a safe and sane collection, who could fault him? Richard Tyler, who was dismissed last season for cutting the line too close to the cutting edge, can testify to that.
In fashionspeak, "wearable" translates to dull; in real language, it translates to clothes that women can wear without scaring the horses. The Robinson hand at tailoring showed in a fine lineup of suits, dresses and coats. He did this season's shaped jackets, menswear stripes with a glitter, handsome trouser suits and respectable leather, just right for women who want to be current without giving the office snipers too much ammunition.
Here's a new talent worth watching.
DE LA RENTA
The lucky few ladies who don't give a fig about flaunting their wardrobe budgets or hiding in politically correct drabness can be thankful there's an Oscar in the wings.
Glamour was very much alive and kicking on the de la Renta runway.
None of that understated business, thank you.
Even his plaid and tweed suits were generously sprinkled with glitter.
For those special occasions -- and Oscar fans tend to have scads of them -- there were gowns for entrancing and exiting in ornamental excitement. Encrusted beading, laces, bustles, trains, bows -- sometimes all together -- were showstoppers.
The de la Renta style of more is better frosted it all with heavy diamante brooches, earrings and necklaces, a real spark in a season of minimal jewelry.