The question was posed more than once during the New York shows: Where is all that smart sportswear that once formed the core of American fashion?

On Friday morning, it made a big comeback courtesy of a beautiful Ralph Lauren collection that radiated refined understatement. Lauren opened with the simplest of looks, a black polo and wide trousers, no-nonsense, yet set off with a panama hat that could be read as debonair or playful. He continued with sporty clothes in a spectator mood, black and white, occasionally in concert. These came utterly breezy in loose bibbed shirts over shorts, or more tailored with some of the week’s few traditional suit sightings.

Of course, the downside of such an approach is that it can seem a tad quiet, so Lauren mixed in moments of exotica — a kimono arranged just so over jaunty layers, a few too-graphic geometric patterns. But these felt a bit forced and out of place among an otherwise ultra-savvy lineup.

There was nothing forced about evening, when the perfectly rendered offerings were diverse as an elegant black chiffon shirtwaist gown and a surprisingly quirky frock, seemingly crafted from two swirling white linen tablecloths. As for the elaborate embroideries and shimmering lamés that worked that delicate cusp between silver and palest gold, each was a subtle stunner.

To view Ralph Lauren's full Spring 2007 Collection, click here.

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