Whether they riffed on the Sixties, the Forties or chose to play masculine against feminine, designers handled these themes with assurance as the New York collections continued. The result: plenty of great-looking clothes.

Proenza Schouler: Beautiful, commercial clothes and plenty of them. Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are a gifted duo who somehow managed to avoid the typical awkward designer adolescence and leapt right into full-fledged professional adulthood. Their work displays a surety and a level of execution well beyond their years and experience, and an impressive refined aesthetic. Their fall collection swaggered with confidence and a savvy awareness of bottom-line realities. Minus some of the more Madonna-esque corsetry, these clothes should sell up a storm.

The collection swayed nicely between two motifs: a take on the Sixties replete with microminis and bubbled-up jockey caps that stayed remarkably uncostume-y, and a rendering of girl-meets-boy in deft combos of corsetry and mannish tailoring. The biggest news came in the former, oozing girlish charm in delightful color-blocked, crinkly silk dresses, and turning sportier in separates combos, proper pinstripes and tweeds flashed up with loose mesh camis in restrained homage to Paco Rabanne. Though the corsets worn with pleated pants or trouser skirts rang a distinct bell of familiarity, they looked smart, and, in this season of ever-expanding proportions, they should give the volume-wary a happily chic — and safe — alternative.

That said, however, this collection’s strength was in a sense its weakness, as despite the strong clothes, one came away less than engaged. Perhaps McCollough and Hernandez are so focused on delivering polish, they’re giving short shrift to the possibilities inherent in a sense of abandon.

Monique Lhuillier: Monique Lhuillier is a promising designer, playing to two mind-sets. First, there are her red-carpet looks that feed the glamour-driven sensibility of L.A.’s denizens. Then, there is her increased emphasis on dressed-up suits and day looks, which happen to be big trends on the fall runways. Consider her terrific tweeds: the plum metallic polo shirtdress with baby-doll sleeves; a fox-collared coat; the belted jacket over a flip skirt. What Lhuillier did beautifully this season was to take what might be considered sportswear shapes and show them in the dressiest fabrics. She used lace for a crisp safari jacket and a pencil skirt and taffeta for a ruffle-edged classic jacket. In no way, however, has Lhuillier forgotten her lavish beginnings. Her long dresses were more evolved and glamorous than ever, and her evening gowns were exceptionally well made. A brown lace beauty with crisscrossing crystal insets and a plum lace godet halter gown were among the standouts. Like most ascending designers, Lhuillier had some derivative moments such as a few Oscar de la Renta references, but, hopefully, she’ll refine her niche with her own signature.

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