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Luck Be a Lady

Designers such as Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger and Isabel Toledo at Anne Klein were conjuring up feminine, ladylike looks, often mixing them with the sportif. <BR><BR><STRONG>Donna Karan:</STRONG> Donna Karan in Havana — sounds like a steamy...

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Designers such as Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger and Isabel Toledo at Anne Klein were conjuring up feminine, ladylike looks, often mixing them with the sportif.

Donna Karan: Donna Karan in Havana — sounds like a steamy trip. But these days, it seems, satiating her ever-deepening yen for urban Zen is Karan’s primary inspiration, even when she’s working a motif with cha-cha-cha potential. On Wednesday it made for a lovely collection, though one in which serene sometimes knocked at snooze’s door.

The show was all about ladified sportif à la the cinch-waist, full-skirted dress. These came in shirt shapes and halters, both soft and crisp, but invariably neutral — beige, brown, khaki, gray. Peculiarly, Karan referred to the palette as passionate, although she was associating passion with the organic look of some of the clothes, especially those belted in a wide slice of raffia or a skirt with a deep cork border. Karan diversified the dominant silhouette by working in crocheted lace or adding embroideries or sheer horizontal strips into a skirt. And she gave a nod to sportswear with trim jackets and some appealingly demonstrative denims, including a skirt with huge side pockets worn with a red puff-sleeved shirt, for a rare and welcomed shot of color. For evening, Karan’s beloved goddesses returned, this time decked out in a series of colorless jersey gowns, spare beauties that let a woman’s body do the talking.

Tommy Hilfiger: He’s done rock ‘n’ roll. He’s done casual, visible-boxer-shorts prep. Now, Tommy Hilfiger is applying a thick coat of polish to his collection. “It’s about clothes becoming more refined, grown-up and sophisticated,” he explained backstage preshow. “It’s about this woman who is no longer a teen and who is self-assured and confident.” The question of direction has been a frequent one over the years, and Hilfiger knows a crystal-clear message is essential. To that end, the lineup of all-American classics with a keen country club quality made his point. There were classic khaki trenches and cotton twill skirts, a pink-and-white cabana-stripe silk georgette dress and lots of red, white and blue on blazers, silk blouses and cropped pants. It was a fine collection, simple and serviceable. In fact, the only out-there pieces were for men, as in pale pink blazers and short pants embroidered with sea horses, which, with the exception of hip-hop super-preps like Kanye West, should be worn to sports bars with caution.

Anne Klein: Modernize an American classic that’s been off the radar for while — that’s a tall order, one that Isabel Toledo began to wrestle with last season in a rocky debut. Spring, however, was a marked improvement as she focused on dresses of all manner and inspirations. For instance, when her husband, Ruben, accidently smeared paint on her dress, Toledo saw the possibility of art and something stylish in it. Thus the opening white frock smattered with multicolored pixels. From there, she mixed it up, but always with a feminine touch: fresh, striped numbers nipped at the waist; a pair of shiny silver looks, and swingy draped jerseys. But she saved the best for last, sending out a group of cheerful frocks featuring hand-painted flowers on crinkled silk that had a slightly bohemian flair. But a label makeover takes time, so a few bumps are to be expected. Hers came when she let things get too dark and heavy, as with a trio of black lace looks that didn’t look nearly as spring-worthy as the rest.

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