Short and Sweet

The Baltimore Sun

New York-- --Women blessed with the gift of gams will be pleased with what's showing up on the storied runways at Bryant Park this week.

Halfway through the eight-day extravaganza that is Fashion Week -- the biannual showcase of the most acclaimed designers' new collections -- several trends and continuation of trends have surfaced.

One of the biggest seems to be showing a lot of leg.

On runway after runway, models were decked out in teensy thigh-skimming creations, from baby bubble dresses and short shorts to jumper-style one pieces and miniskirts.

"It's almost all short," says Susan Cernek, associate fashion news editor at Elle magazine. "About midthigh or definitely a few inches above the knee. ... I haven't seen any pedal pushers. There's no Bermudas. It's all showing off those gams."

Fashion's rising hemline calls attention to the leg and away from the hips and backside, which will be all but hidden in spring's voluminous silhouettes -- including the omnipresent empire waistline, which usually precedes a bubble or egg shape.

"There's still lots of volume," says Suze Yalof Schwartz, fashion editor at large for Glamour magazine. "If it's tight around the bust, it's loose around the waist and hips. If it's loose all over, we're seeing a lot of leg, which is very sexy, very now."

From the classic to the contemporary, Carolina Herrera to Cynthia Steffe, the city short was replaced by a much shorter, more rounded short, either with a pleat or with a cuffed or cinched hem and slightly bulged around the thigh.

The bulged look many decried several seasons ago seems to be here to stay a while longer. Experts and observers say volume will continue to be a major player in the spring, and if the week's earliest shows are any indication, it will only get bigger -- literally and figuratively.

Marc Jacobs' crooked, candy-decorated runway was filled with huge, hot-air balloon-like dresses and gigantic, puffed-out short-pants.

Some of the complex, hyperbolic shapes at Jacobs' celebrity-filled show seemed more artistic than wearable, but fashion insiders say the cutting-edge industry favorite has his finger on the pulse of a more fashion-forward woman.

"The Marc Jacobs girl isn't going for safe pieces," says Cernek. "She's going for more structural, more creative."

Other designers offered more downplayed versions of spring's popular balloon or egg shape.

Monique Lhuillier showed dresses with tremendous ruffled hems. Many of the dresses at Reem Acra, Bill Blass, Betsey Johnson and Luca Luca featured exaggerated hips, offset by cinched waists, hems or both.

And the models at Tuleh showcased simple silhouettes with big surprises: oversized shoulders, poofy sleeves and bold, boxy collars.

"There's still a play of volume for spring, big shapes up top, which I think is very interesting," says Michael Fink, fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue. "And we're seeing lots of Swiss dots and eyelets, somewhat like we saw last spring, but very precious, very exact. That preciousness is making the minimalism that is happening very feminine."

Femininity is another key trend, as evidenced by the heavy emphasis on dresses.

T-shirt dresses, shirt dresses, bubble dresses, trapeze dresses, baby doll dresses, long and clingy jersey dresses, fabulous, but fun, evening dresses.

Many of the newest-looking dresses are splashed with gorgeous prints, patterns and graphics. Even Marc Jacobs, whose collection was, as usual, full of drab '90s reminiscent colors, showed a few T-shirt dresses accented with a subtle print.

The key to wearing a dress for spring is keeping it easy, experts say. Anything that requires too much form, structure, embellishment or intricacy belongs in the pile marked "two springs ago."

"It's very graphic, very clean," says designer Tory Burch of her own spring line. "A lot of dresses, a lot of knit dressing. It's just easy and simple to wear."

Knits and jersey materials are popular for spring, particularly because of the ease they lend to dressing.

"It's easy shapes, throw-on items," says designer Cynthia Steffe.

Her runway had many dresses, but Steffe also gave women many options in a pant.

She showed cigarette pants, pencil pants, stove-pipe pants. She showed them under eyelet dresses and jersey dresses. She showed them with crisp white tops and big belts.

"I liked playing with the different proportions: the dresses over pants, the tunics over pants," says Steffe. "Having the skinny leg is a way to move us away from the legging and onto a real pant. Pants are very important. They're incredibly versatile and lifestyle driven, and they're the essential piece to have for layering."

Many menswear designers also have shown new collections this week. The prevailing theme seems to be a movement away from serious dressing and, like it is for women, a shifting toward ease and comfort -- but without the bubble shapes.

"There's a lot of lightness and layering and soft beautiful neutral colors," says Matthew Edelstein, fashion editor for Details magazine. "Concretes, tans, putties. What looks really great right now is navy and white together, and also black and white and every gorgeous neutral, with bits of bright colors popping here and there."

Edelstein says some of the designers that illustrated spring's trends well are DKNY, John Bartlett, John Varvatos and Thom Browne.

DKNY showed a splendid mix of urban and sport, such as suits with a sporty jacket underneath. And Browne, one of the most influential menswear designers, showed new shapes for men, such as more form-fitting jackets and higher armholes.

"The way he's rethought proportions for men," Edelstein says, "it is so unbelievable."

For Tanika White's daily online fashion digest and coverage of Fashion Week, go to

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