NEW YORK
THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS RULED AT MANOLO, WHILE SEXY SUITS STARRED AT MICHAEL KORS.

Michael Kors: Everyone was hoping Michael Kors would continue on the upward path he took with his successful fall collection. And, indeed, his Friday show began with great promise. He sent out sexy suits with intricate seaming in synthetic fabrics like twill, satin and piqué that made them even curvier. Things heated up when he paired pinstripe pants with a hip, white leather jacket. Like many designers this season, Kors is mad for dresses. There were sexy georgette jersey wraps, sporty polo-collar numbers, and enough one-shoulder looks to fill a toga party. And, oh yes, the belted sweater and satin skirt were here, too, in a mix of pretty pastels. But the show began to lose some of its sizzle with a parade of frankly boring separates and dowdy New-Length skirts that were straight from Stepford Suburbia.

Manolo: Manolo showed there's more than one way to cut a sexy little black dress. There were at least 20 knockouts, each one imaginatively draped, angled and cut. And when it wasn't black, Manolo played with celadon and lavender. He sent out a killer halter jumpsuit that dipped dangerously low in the back. But rarely has showing so much skin been less vulgar. Unfortunately, the models had a lot of ground to cover in the spacious Grand Lodge Room of Masonic Hall, which made the show run too long.

Fashion Scoop:
lYou may have thought it was a mistake or a substitution when your program read "Dorothy" but the model on the runway was clearly Kristen McMenamy. It's no mistake, said the red-headed model, and it's no reference to Oz either.
"It started out as a joke, but now I'm doing it seriously just for the shows," she said backstage after the Calvin Klein show Friday. "There are all these models like Chrystelle, Kirsten, Christy, Kirsty. When I changed my hair color, I changed my name. And my mother's maiden name is Donoghue, so I'm keeping the Irish thing--Dorothy Donoghue."

Zoran: Considering that it was the end of an exhausting fashion week, a good-sized crowd showed up for Zoran's Friday evening show. But after all, he was offering dinner along with the clothes. Zoran's commitment to impeccably simple shapes in luxurious fabrics and a refined palette continues. And that is exactly what the Zoran devotees hanker for. This season, they can feast on an ankle-length white monk's coat over black trousers, or linen dusters worn with linen tank tops and iridescent silk chiffon pants. For those who think plain old chinos are too basic, Zoran does his in khaki silk.Liza Bruce: In a season of synthetic fabrics, Liza Bruce's latex clothes stand out. Once the stuff of sex shops, Bruce turned it into very wearable wide-legged pants paired with pastel satin shirts, fitted jackets and high-neck tank dresses. On the other hand, her nude group, called "condom wear" by one observer, may be a problem for anyone with an ounce of modesty. Although there were also some great laminated vinyl skirts and hologram-print dresses, the collection tended to be repetitive.

Label: Has Laura Whitcomb lost her sense of wit? Her James Bond theme should have been campy, but instead it was a disaster. Whitcomb, known for her club-kids clothes, tried to do a sophisticated take on the Bond girl, but all she did was send out ill-fitting jackets, skirts and dresses. A satin tank dress with a Pan Am logo, cute fake croc HotPants and a pink sparkle tank and metallic skirt provided some humor, however.

Tracy Feith: Although Tracy Feith's decision to show his collection in a strip joint offended a few models, editors and retailers, it was all meant in good fun. The burlesque-style lighting made all the clothes look appropriately nude, as the models pole-danced in some great satin shirtdresses, fitted snakeskin jackets and skirts, and a glitter patchwork print suit.

Finis: It's not their fault that by the time Mark McNairy and Antoinette Linn showed, retro had already been shoved down everyone's throat. On top of that, Finis's take on retro was just plain old--and sadly drab. There were some bright spots, however. Plaid Eisenhower jackets with New Length skirts, or slim pants and a pretty satin and lace-trimmed slip kept things from becoming hopelessly dated.

Han Feng: Han Feng all but left her signature pleats behind. She showed her versatility with day looks that included cream silk fitted Mao suits and linen and gossamer dresses that were molded to the body with darting. And in a season of pastels and retro, Feng showed her individuality with fluid chiffon skirts in deep ocean blues, greens and dark ambers paired with asymmetrically cut linen tops.

Zang Toi: His silk doupioni dresses decorated with tiny organza appliqué roses, country club knits and embroidered bras will please the Ladies Who Lunch crowd. But they'll recoil in horror at the black leather biker jackets and latticed-lace micro-minis that made the models look butch. As for the ball gowns, they probably would be best in an opera diva's dressing room.Navy by Cover Girl: The three designers in this sponsored group show had little in common except a strong streak of individualism, with looks ranging from casual to campy to evening. Donna Maione showed cropped sweaters and sarong pants, while Michelle Bergeron sent out a hip and dressy collection that included fun snakeskin bras, skirts and dresses along with kitschy Dunkin Donuts purses and Burger King clutches. Neil Bieff showed eveningwear good enough for the Oscars, including a floor-sweeping navy gown.

Roberto Cavalli: From the lizard corsets to the gold HotPants, Cavalli's clothes were vintage La Dolce Vita glitz. The printed organza pieces and delicate knits were very elegant, but the scores of angel-printed jeans were tiresome. And the shredded skirts looked like bad Versace. But of course, on Nadja Auermann, who did the show, just about anything looks good.

Ballantyne Cashmere: In a season that's rampant with retro and ladylike looks, Ballantyne Cashmere is right on track with classic argyles and twinsets. After all, they invented them. This time, many are cropped and in pretty pastels.

Donald Deal: His evening collections are always full of glamorous, beautifully made dresses. But this season, Deal showed some terrific, two-tone luncheon dresses as well as black silk evening dresses inset with lace panels and pale chiffon halters and bustier gowns. The appeal of his clothes, however, was weakened by the styling of the show, which made the pieces look more trashy than sexy.

Sigrid Olsen: Casual, relaxed sportswear with an emphasis on colorful prints is Olsen's forte. On a tiny runway set up in her showroom, Olsen sent out beachy batiks and embroidered shell sweaters. Some individual pieces, like the linen sailor pants, were cute, but sometimes she pushed too hard--a printed skirt with a matching T-shirt seemed like dressing by numbers.

Hubert Franco: His third runway show started with promise, but it faded about halfway through. Although his chiffon day dresses and slinky, body-skimming burlap pieces were beautiful, Franco's evening looks were ruined by bulky braided trim that looked too heavy for the light, gossamer fabrics.

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