Proper or pretty, superchic or full of whimsy, spring's runways were packed with refined, sober looks that still kept everything cool, lean and sexy.

Anna Sui: Charm and cool are rarely synonymous in fashion, yet a deftly prepared elixir of the two has long fueled Anna Sui's appeal. The collection she showed for spring was no exception, packed as it was with oh-so-sweet fancy frocks. In a way, it recalled her early pre-kitsch styling years, with dress after dress perfect for attending a Chelsea art opening, underground rock concert or independent flick premiere.

Long a lover of whimsical prints, this season's were inspired by the Twenties-era's magazine Gazette de Bon Ton. "Everything was so delicate," she says of its charming fashion illustrations. "That's what I was going for in the prints and the clothes themselves." To that end, a butterfly print was a focus of the collection, but there were also orchids, roses, daisies, shawl and curtain prints rounding out the airy repertoire. And they turned up in just about every floaty dress shape imaginable — long, short, fitted, full, Empire, drop-waisted and on and on. Lest it all become too frilly, Sui accessorized with butter-soft laser-cut boots, metallic espadrille wedges and soft, low-slung hobo bags roomy enough to hold every necessity of a girl-about-town. Delightful as it all was, however, the endless dress brigade grew repetitive.

When Sui did digress, it was with pulled-together sportswear, such as a tan embroidered coat over a sequined halter and cropped pants. Such looks seemed to come out of nowhere, but nevertheless opened a window into Sui's secret chic.

Cynthia Rowley: Mod fever has infected many a New York designer, and Cynthia Rowley is no exception. Rowley's show began oddly enough, with a model crashing through a wall of candy glass, clad in a silk shift dress suspended from a Lucite disc. In fact, Rowley went crazy for Lucite accents, either in those discs adorning necklines, in marble-sized balls adorning headbands or in a shoe's platforms. Unfortunately, such tricky accessories and a runway covered in candy glass shards drew attention away from some cute clothes. The best: a Swiss cotton jacquard dirndl dress with a pouf hem and an ultrasuede skirt topped by an organdy blouse and V-neck sweater. Rowley's Space-Age shifts were also rendered more wearable when that Lucite was replaced with a silk disc.

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