NEW YORK
ISAAC SLIPS ON THE ROCKY ROAD OF RETRO, WHILE LINDA ALLARD HOPS, SKIPS AND JUMPS ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK AT ELLEN TRACY.

Isaac Mizrahi: Mizrahi staged a typically hilarious presentation on Tuesday, this time with a ticker board that carried all kinds of amusing inside comments. "Viscose is Italian for rayon," accompanied a knitted group, while to introduce a spangled gold siren, the board read: "the Oscar dress--and we don't mean de la Renta."
As for the clothes, they were less amusing, largely because Mizrahi got caught up in the retro craze sweeping fashion. The designer had said that Louise Dahl-Wolfe was the inspiration for his collection, but there were also shades of Lucy Ricardo and Laura Petrie, apparent byproducts of his docu-sales pitch for Nick at Nite. Unfortunately, those ladies sometimes led him down a dowdy path: What is this fascination with Lilly Pulitzer? Similarly, while it was refreshing to see something other than a hobble skirt on a runway, those past-the-knee flared shapes just weren't the answer.
Still, there's no question that Isaac knows how to make a suit, and he sent out plenty of beauties. The key to it all was the precisely cut jacket with a roped shoulder, shown over slim, knee-covering skirts or pants. They turned up in a variety of guises--black tissue crepe, hot pink barathea, gangster tweeds and a killer white seersucker pantsuit that would do a modern Dietrich proud.

Ellen Tracy: It's not every show that boasts Allen Questrom--not to mention all the other ceo's--in its front row. But then, there's more to a salesroom than a hobble skirt and a patent mule. Just ask the folks at Ellen Tracy, which has laid claim to some of the best real estate in retail today. And the collections that Linda Allard showed yesterday should keep the ship sailing along just beautifully.
Her signature collection was just the right mix of trends with bread-and-butter--Forties-style suits, steamy stretch satin Ts, corsets and bustiers. There were plenty of hot colors and an occasional nod to longer lengths. At Company, which next season will show a 30 percent decrease in price, Allard kept to a pale palette and focused on cropped polos, hipster skirts and fluid little dresses.Badgley Mischka: In the best collection the team has shown in many seasons, Mark Badgley and James Mischka proved that retro is a lot more than just a skinny belt. Superbly cut, shaped and tuck-seamed suits came out in a steely range of silk satins or shantungs--platinum, petroleum and lavender. Aptly named Tierney, Hayworth and Stanwyck, these clothes were pure Hollywood.
Soft pastel cashmere twinsets or polo shirts were belted over ivory satin Hepburn pants or slim, below-the-knee satin skirts. The white or black silk and rayon crepe pantsuits were terrific, marred only by huge rhinestone buttons. The finale featured beaded satin chiffon or velvet and crystal-beaded lace gowns. Their lean silhouettes, in fluid fabrics and a pale palette, made these dresses surprisingly young.

Nicole Miller: Miller has come a long way from her stiff crepe party dresses. In a frankly sophisticated collection, she hit on all the season's trends--tap shorts and twinsets, jumpsuits and city suits. Retro looked right in many of these, particularly the jersey jumpsuit, updated with a snakeskin belt and chunky loafers. At times, the clothes were ill-fitting or garish. But many of her finale pieces were beautiful--a brown ombré taffeta bustier sheath and the long, ivory and rose embroidered gown, which virtually sailed down the runway.

Vivienne Tam: Fresh, breezy and fun--that's Vivienne Tam's take on spring. Her models looked like long, cool drinks of water on the runway, in snappy yellow and white gingham car coats, shimmery pastel net slips and slinky black net pieces with colorful embroidery. Her sequined Mao Ts and printed pants were a witty touch in a very strong, wearable collection.

Steven Stolman: This designer has always loved nostalgia, so it only makes sense that he showed a clip from "Funny Face" before sending out his Think Pink group of short taffeta raincoats over little dresses. Stolman gave lots of reverential nods to Jackie, Audrey and Grace with A-lines and sheaths, but his flippy skirts and short jackets were overpowered by upholstery prints. His cardigans or twinsets shown with beaded tank dresses, minis or sarongs, however, dazzled.

Christian Francis Roth: Twinkle, twinkle, little collection--with high fashion these clothes have no connection. Christian Francis Roth's spring line looked like Romper Room playwear for women who want to look like children. The colorful vinyl skirts and shirtdresses could at least be worn post-graduation. Paying designer prices for crayon-scrawl appliqués and connect-the-dot suits is not something most grown-ups would do.FASHION SCOOP
Mariah's Coattails: Mariah Carey was ringside at Isaac Mizrahi, in search of looks for her upcoming tour promoting her new album, "Merry Christmas." When she sauntered in, all red mohair and black vinyl, to her seat next to Kal Ruttenstein, the bulbs started flashing. One photographer asked Kal to lower his fan, and another added, "It's OK. [These shots] will make your reputation." After the presentation, when the security guards offered to help hoist her onto the runway, Carey looked down at her micro-mini and said, "Oh, no--I don't want to give everyone a show."

TALK OF THE TENTS: Showroom Seven owner Karen Erickson was none too happy with her depiction in The New Yorker's current fashion issue.
Erickson and designer Anna Sui are the subjects of one of the Talk of the Town pieces by Susan Orlean. In it, Orlean said that Sui's highest praise is to call something "so high school girl."
"I have never, ever heard Anna use the phrase 'so high school girl' in all the years I have known her," Erickson said. "And the way she wrote about me, that my face became pinched because Anna didn't like the color of the cherries. Give me a break! If she doesn't like the color, I get her another one."

NEWS MAN: Columnist Mike McAlary of the New York Daily News is preparing a story on fashion week. "I'm hiding from the elections," he confided. Research includes trailing Anna Wintour.

SUIT UP: Fashion people already use 44 as a company cafeteria, so it only makes sense that owner Brian McNally would ask Marie-Anne Oudejans of Tocca to design new uniforms for the staff. Waitresses will be wearing short red wool tank dresses, while hostesses will sport burgundy wool cap-sleeve dresses. Oudejans is also dressing the model/waitresses--in blue lace slips--at the Allure party tonight celebrating Kevyn Aucoin's book, "The Art of Makeup."

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