Sober palettes and stark, clean lines plus soft layers with artistic touches equaled plenty of attitude for the season.

Vera Wang: Carpe diem. Or, in Vera Wang's case, carpe deal. Right now, dueling suitors are in hot pursuit, trying to lure Wang with very different propositions: St. John, reportedly hoping to sign her on as creative director, and, at the other end of the price divide, Kohl's, said to be eager for some kind of Vera Wang brand of its own. The spectacular collection the designer showed on Thursday, a gorgeous rendering of the season's dark romance, should only heighten their passions.

Wang continued her recent moodiness into fall, now with a rich, dark palette and mesmerizing ombrés she attributed to a Rothko inspiration. The results looked painterly indeed, with a woman-of-mystery vibe. Yet, while Wang noted a late-Fifties film noir feeling, in their sculptural gentility her clothes also owed a debt to Paul Poiret, especially in large-over-small volumes and high-belted dresses and jackets. By day, her suits made a convincing argument for dressing up. She stripped fur of all grandeur — colored mink for a coat over a wrap skirt or long vest over a sheath — and gave new character to the basic cardigan simply by adding a buttoned belt.

One of the collection's strengths was in the details with which Wang added surprise without overstatement — a suit with an off-center yoke in back; a pair of big rosettes on the back belt of a brocade jacket, and in a nod to Goth, black or blue corsages placed unexpectedly on the hip of a skirt or the belt of graceful gowns. It all had an aura of seduction with just the right touch of the artist — a touch that, with appropriate modifications, might flourish as beautifully from a home base in the heartland (and if Menomonee Falls, Wis., isn't heartland, what is?) as one in Irvine, Calif. Stay tuned.

Calvin Klein: What do 1920s Berlin, Lee Miller and a confused customer have in common?

They all inspired Francisco Costa's fall collection for Calvin Klein. Costa is in a hot seat, and he knows it. Given Phillips-Van Heusen's recent solid performance, some observers wonder whether the company's heart is really in the process of reestablishing its designer business. Those coming from a fashion perspective can't imagine the American industry without a thriving designer-level Calvin Klein. It's Costa's job to prove to his bosses that the fashion set has it right. Thus, he proceeded somewhat clinically for fall, building on the appeal of his blockbuster spring collection.

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