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A Backward Glance

With inspirations ranging from Brigitte Bardot to Batista’s Cuba and Eighties aerobics, designers created often-felicitous mixes of past and present.<br><br><br><br>Cynthia Steffe: Cynthia Steffe had a Sixties moment, and a sexy one at that. Her...

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With inspirations ranging from Brigitte Bardot to Batista’s Cuba and Eighties aerobics, designers created often-felicitous mixes of past and present.

Cynthia Steffe: Cynthia Steffe had a Sixties moment, and a sexy one at that. Her Brigitte-Bardot-meets-Jean-Shrimpton collection was playful and seductive without being trashy or falling prey to retro kitsch. Some of the strongest pieces were the baby floral denim group, a Swiss dotted strapless dress and a slew of satin gym shorts. She also sent out pintucked dresses with deep V-necks, little satin bomber jackets and a fringe-detailed top, all that could have been part of Bardot’s movie getups. Her off-the-shoulder sweatshirt with laser cuts worn over tight black satin cropped pants screamed sex kitten. She pulled in a posh element with piped trenches and little black dresses, capris and corseted suits. Overall, this was one of Steffe’s strongest efforts.

Tuleh: “This season we’re back on a roll,” said designer Bryan Bradley. He admitted last season was a transitional stage for the company with the exit of partner Josh Patner, the birth of creative director Amanda Brooks’ child and the relocation of the Tuleh studio from the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side’s Chrystie Street. “This season was much more relaxing for us,” Bradley added. “There was less stress and more time to do what we needed to do.” That to-do list included expanding their international distribution to include Harvey Nichols and Isetan, and putting together a spring collection.

The design team’s goal — to create beautiful, wearable clothes that girls love — has not changed. And they will surely give the uptown young ladies their fix with their latest offerings. They belted black-and-white dotted trenches over a contrasting halter or strapless dresses while another coat, in basic tan, opened to reveal a sassy floral lining. Cheery flowing cocktail frocks — in solids or delightful dotted prints — flattered the body with ruched bodices and ruffled hems. Bradley and Brooks accented girly chiffon tops with bows and paired them with pants or whimsical floral lace skirts. For all of those black-tie evenings that don’t necessarily call for red-carpet satin, they offered a casual ballgown in flowered cotton voile, along with long printed chiffon dresses worn with fitted cashmere cardigans to ward off the twilight chill.

Tracy Reese: This season, Reese went back to pre-revolutionary Cuba, where glamour and seduction ruled the streets. It was a moment when fashion was just as flirtatious as the steamy dance numbers mastered by Latin women around the world. And for the most part, it worked. The crocheted raffia dresses, strapless jersey blouson tops, flared floral skirts, shrunken peajacket, cabana skirt and easy summer dresses were all good-looking. The designer also featured plenty of the beautiful prints, which have become her signature, including a woodblock trellis version that added to the girlish charm of the collection. But the show could have used some editing.

Luella Bartley: Tennis anyone? Sports were the order of the day at Luella. And while the designer’s sportif references included everything from drag racing and bowling to modern dance and aerobics, she managed to pull it all into a cohesive show. The athletic details were only that — nothing was literal.

Flushed-looking models with slicked-back hair radiated a fresh-from-the-gym energy in featherlight fabrics and clean lines. She did flippy jersey tennis skirts cut at the mid-thigh and longer dance versions. A multicolored organic-print jersey look had the sleek lines of a race car. While there were whiffs of Eighties aerobic gear in the swingy black halter dress layered over a ballet-neck bodysuit, the look didn’t succumb to camp. The leotard influence was also evident not only in the scoop necklines and fit of several other bodysuits, but in their high-cut legs, which exposed the curve of the hip above the line of pants and skirts.

The collection combined some of the best elements of American and British fashion: accessible, comfortable clothes with the right touch of “It Girl” appeal. Even though the pink and yellow knit dress at the show’s end felt much heavier than the rest, the collection maintained its sporty, graceful energy.

Luca Luca: Business as usual. At Luca Luca’s show Wednesday night, Luca Orlandi managed to attract some of the usual (and not so usual) suspects — a glowing Ivana Trump, her ex with Melania Knauss, Victoria Gotti, Angela Bassett, Mya, Candace Bushnell and Salman Rushdie. They were all front and center, waiting for more of the sexually charged looks Orlandi die-hards have come to expect. But he threw them a curve and went demure for spring.

There were charming ladylike pastel sweaters paired with delicate eyelet, beaded or full organza skirts and a handful of little dresses in lace or sherbet-colored linens decorated with satin bows. The embroidered pants were sweet, as well, especially when paired with knitted camis for a relaxed, casual feel. These ideas had potential and should have been further explored. Instead, he added a series of airy peasant tops and pants with crochet detailing, which, though pretty and feminine, were too familiar. Luca also revisited his own past, subtly tweaking silhouettes from fall. The collection would have been stronger if he focused more on his new ladylike theme.

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