Vera Wang: A romp through the Roman Republic? That may have been Vera Wang's stated inspiration, but the collection she showed on Friday was in fact another sojourn to the land of artsy chic. It's a place Wang has claimed as her own, and where this season she found herself at a crossroads. Her challenge: to avoid redundancy while staying wearable and au courant. Duh, you say? True, that's the task of every designer every season, but one heightened exponentially when the signature is so specific and the costume-crossover potential so high. For spring, Wang responded beautifully, scaling back the obvious intricacy (despite highly complicated cuts) and decoration while retaining the air of wistful mystery, and countering her gorgeous Romanesque draping with bold structure.

The latter made for a deft and beautiful balancing act. Never a natty blazer kind of gal, Wang loves languid and here spun sweater and tunic dressing into nonchalant elegance highlighted by floppy, whisper-thin knits with floating chiffon back panels, each one a graceful knockout. Often, these played against slouchy pants, shorts or stiff A-line skirts which the designer dubbed "New Look" in a fanciful riff on a classic. These made for dramatic stuff — plenty evocative in rich-hued, often shiny fabrics, though not all easy to wear. As for decoration, Wang limited the extras to carefully placed bullion embroideries and bold stones engineered into bibs or collars for graphic oomph.

For evening, Wang was stellar, her nonglitzy beauties providing welcome antidote to all the overembroidered illusion out there. Among the stunners: a jewel-neck forest green gown bloused haphazardly at the hips, because the sensual earth goddess survived the fall of Rome — and loves to work a sexy drape.

Michael Kors: Tennis anyone? How about a day at the beach followed by some racy disco doings at Studio 54? In the collection he showed on Sunday, Michael Kors had all such activities covered with terrific results.

Kors' innate up-with-people/up-with-fashion optimism pulses through everything he does, and for spring revealed itself in a terrific, lighthearted lineup with a current of the designer's beloved Seventies wafting through. Within that framework, he delivered a feisty feast with enough diversity to thrill the gamut of his well-toned gals, whether they fancy structure — a sunshine-and-white doubleface shift, a snazzy bullion tunic — or a side-slit day dress with flou-la-la shades of Lisa Taylor photographed by Helmut Newton for Vogue back when. Not a dress girl? Sharp safari fare played into one of the week's developing trends. Even at the beach, Kors went two ways — neither of them trashy: high glam with plunging-V maillots or sweetly girlish with a ruffled bikini.

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