NEW YORK
RALPH RETURNS TO THE SECURITY OF LAUREN-LAND, WHILE ANNA ROCKED DOWN MEMORY LANE.

Ralph Lauren: Ralph's back in the real world. The collection he showed on Wednesday was filled with classic, graceful clothes that might not set the world on fire but sure do look good. This designer has a real talent for taking disparate ideas in the fashion air--like satin or skinny belts--and distilling them into what can only be called the Lauren look.
The biggest news was the dress--he's mad for it. But, as for those hobble vixen skirts, forget it. Lauren prefers a softer line: chiffon shirtdresses with floaty skirts, or strappy little flirt dresses, more constructed than a typical slip. These came out in polkadots, gentle florals or solid, punched-up pastels, sometimes under jackets. When he went closer to the body, it was with a quiet sexiness, as in the charming white-collared checked sheath. Ralph also went his own way when it came to length. His skirts may have been longer than in recent seasons, but almost all cleared the knee.
Similarly, Lauren's tailoring offered relief from Crawford-mania, and he gave the classic pantsuit new spunk in a range of jaunty pastels. He went short on top with good looking twinsets over pants and a pink leather jacketover a pinstriped skirt.
After canceling a separate showing of his Ralph bridge collection, Lauren decided to throw it all together on one runway--Ralph, Polo Sport and his signature line. Ralph opened with a lineup of shrunken, racy little polo shirts. Shrink fever has definitely hit New York, and these should be red hot. But in the end, Lauren played the la Parisienne serenade a little too heavily, and it just didn't sound fresh.
Polo Sport, on the other hand, was a feisty romp of models rollerblading, boxing and biking on the runway. They looked great, right down to the tennis ladies in combinations of ivory satin and cashmere.

Todd Oldham: Forget big shoulders and knee-length skirts. Todd Oldham is a T&A man through and through. In fact, he's spearheading a campaign to reinstate the micro-mini to its former position of fashion power. Long for a sequined swatch to sort of cover the tush? Todd's your guy.
Todd has always been more interested in good times than good taste, and his runway had its kitsch and vulgar moments. He used jeweled clothespins to pinch HotPants in back for extra cheek, and he sent Naomi out in rhinestone pasties.
But there were also some amusing, appealing clothes. Oldham's mindset is much more in line with Seventies flash than Forties chic, and he had his way with disco. The trend may be over as far as editorial goes, but a hot, swingy little dress should play in the stores just fine. No newcomer to the shrunken top craze, this time Todd played it for all it's worth--skin-tight, half-buttoned jersey shirts, midriff halters and a bevy of bras and bandeaux sent out on a lineup of exceptionally healthy models.
Oldham didn't stop there, riding the trend train through Shanghai, Cheyenne and snakeskin country, with a jungle detour for tiger prints--from DVF-like wrapdresses to sequined siren gowns.
But the collection had moments of elegance within the flash. Some of Todd's suits looked just fine, and the finale of long, jersey dresses with jeweled straps was all about glamorous simplicity.Anna Sui: Bravo, bravo, bravo! And that's just for starting on time. Believe it or not, Sui was the first New York designer to do so. Anna deserves plenty of kudos for her clothes, too. She sent out a lineup in which her characteristic irreverence and sense of humor provided witty smokescreens for a smart, savvy collection. No doubt it left retailers seeing dollar signs everywhere.
Sui said last week that a pair of Christian Bérard prints had inspired the collection. And inspired it was; from the geometric cherry prints to the floral wristlets, her Forties' number had just the right edge. Dresses fell anywhere from just-above-the-knee to midcalf; there were knife-pleated jitterbug skirts and bright, lace-trimmed slips; little halters and glitter sweaters, and short, fitted jackets, some in pearlized leather. Who else would give you nurses' uniforms in rubberized organza? It was all gussied-up with yellow "mink" boas; glitter platforms; sheer, perky anklets, and some of the best silly little hats and bags around. Sometimes, Anna styled it with feigned Andrews Sisters' restraint, while at others, the girls look like charming retro basket cases.
No stickler for historical precision, Sui also did a gangster-rock thing inspired by an old photo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. And she made it shine, in tacky-chic laminated pinstripes and shrunken, stretchy sequined tubes and bras.
Sure, there were rough spots; well-priced lamé doesn't have much else going for it. But Sui's not into perfection. She's into fun. And this was one smart way to throw a party.

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