NEW YORK — The penis, goodness knows, has its artful place. But in mainstream fashion, while assorted images of its grandeur may be ironic, amusing, bold, provocative or all or none of the above, well, it’s a hard sell, so to speak. (Though hardly new or confined to the defiant edge. Remember, Tom Ford accessorized last spring’s Gucci collection with golden penis pendants). Similarly, most other fashion of the sexually explicit sort, some of which has veered toward soft-core porn — will be unlikely to make a major impact at retail come spring.

That’s because, however much they might spend at the shrink, most clothes-buying women are just too inhibited to raunch themselves up for an outing at, say, a friend’s wedding, a dinner party or their favorite restaurant. How lucky for such prudes that so many designers here are into pretty clothes! Real, honest-to-goodness pretty clothes! Playing counter to the Girls Gone Wild theme that surfaced over the weekend are the Girls Gone Mild, in feminine clothes that, while not always discreet, are almost invariably polite. Gentility with a retro slant —Twenties, Forties, Fifties — has been all over the runways, often with a wink at Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld and, once or twice, a nod to one of fashion’s newest influences, Rochas’ Olivier Theyskens. The ballerina makes a favorite muse, as well, with lingerie inspirations — albeit with hints of naughty sometimes nudging over into nice — still strong.

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