If designers have it their way this fall, girls will look feminine in frills at one moment, and tomboyish in military motifs the next.

Richard Chai: The question that Richard Chai posed to himself this season is: How does one create a new sort of sophistication that is both refined and comfortable? "I wanted the clothes to feel like your favorite scarf," Chai said after the show. It's admirable work, and Chai approaches the challenge with gusto, a pocketful of keen ideas and, most indispensably, great technical proficiency. What could be more comfortable than a trenchcoat, a cardigan or cuffed pants meant to be worn with flat shoes? Good question. Perhaps the romantic evening dresses that looked nightgown-comfortable, but with clever seams and lovely knotted fabric rosettes. But there was more than just a sense of ease in the clothes, as the trench combination featured masculine tailoring bordering on the punk, and that evening dress worked a stark, serene romanticism. There was, too, plenty of refinement, which showed up in the details, such as the sharply curved yokes and silver snaps on the coats, rippling lapels on cardigans and subtle texture on pants. Too bad the fashion flock has to wait six months till they hit the stores.

Rodarte: Trekking up to East 79th Street is a haul-and-a-half in the middle of an overstuffed fashion week, especially to see a collection that's only three seasons old. It speaks volumes, then, that retailers such as Julie Gilhart and Linda Fargo made the journey for Rodarte. And designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy didn't disappoint. Picking up where they left off last season, they revisited their pinked and frilled cocktail dresses and evening gowns. Loose chiffon strips, running the length of some looks, undulated and fluttered like sea kelp as models walked — an intentional and intriguing visual trick. It was lovely on the waisted sheaths, but read as fussy on the skinny pantsuits, an idea that Stefano Pilati successfully toyed with at YSL last season. Such intense detail — including the twisted and bunched rosettes that beautifully crowded the back of a long white number — takes patience and incredible effort, something the Mulleavys must have in spades.

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