NEW YORK -- Career wear and short skirts top the hunting lists of retailers, who are coming to this week's collections flush with budget increases of 5 to 15 percent.

After seeing the European designer collections, store executives say they'll use the Americans to fill in the gaps with key sportswear items for the workplace, dresses and eveningwear. Their buys will cover all price points.

Retailers anticipate strong showings from Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Richard Tyler for Anne Klein, among others.

At Neiman Marcus, the fall buy for American collections is planned up 7 to 9 percent.

"I think the difference between America and Europe is that, in large part, the American clothes are much more wearable and realistic," observed Neiman's Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director.

"In Europe, you have to wade through trends and pull out pieces. In America, it really is addressed to the way women like to dress and want to dress."

Kaner expects to see suits with short, A-line skirts, pants in every width, including knit leggings, and a variety of jackets. Designers NM will shop include Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Richard Tyler and Tyler's collection for Anne Klein, Todd Oldham, Anna Sui, Yeohlee, Lauren Sara and Jennifer George.

According to Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale's senior vice president of fashion direction, "Spring was about simplicity. For fall, we're looking for design with more shape and less fluidity. In addition, we're looking for the impact of color from pastels to mid-tone brights, and fabrics with depth, such as mohair, tweeds and fake fur."

Along with short, more tailored silhouettes and A-lines, he added, "We're really looking for new kinds of dresses from day to evening. Between our stocks this spring and what was shown in Europe, we don't need any more slipdresses and baby dolls."

"We have high expectations for New York," said Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue. "Some of the things we didn't find in Europe that we're looking for here are great eveningwear at various price points and well-priced dresses."

Bravo also said Saks wants to see more career options and more casual weekend wear. She added that the budget for New York is slightly increased this year, and the company spent more in Milan and in Paris than it did last year.

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