What will the coolest girls in the room be wearing next spring? Airy frocks, delicate skirts and pretty, cropped jackets — some looks are a bit tussled and others more buttoned up.
Luella Bartley: Luella Bartley has been a member of the country-club set for years now, but she's the sort of cardholder who's always on the verge of getting kicked out for breaking the dress code. In her spring collection, for instance, she jazzed up a prepster watermelon-and-green uniform by tucking a pink oxford into a sequined emerald pencil skirt. And lest a plaid blazer and khaki shorts look too stuffy, she added a studded black leather biker jacket to the look. Bartley also tipped her hat to the New York Yacht Club locale, showing a sailor's banquet of navy-and-red-striped Ts paired with white jeans and skirts. The chunky rope details, however, lacing up charming eyelet dresses and minis, read too literal for the girl who wants the nautical look without actually having to step on deck. But start to finish, the clothes were dolled up with cheeky sky-high spectator pumps, men's-style golf shoes and great big-buckled leather bags. It looks like Bartley's signature punked-up sense of propriety will keep her country-club girls the coolest ones around.
Dana Buchman: For the last few seasons, Dana Buchman has set out to prove she hasn't set her sights only on the career girl. For spring, that premise is starting to ring true. Printed chiffon dresses and separates were more youthful than ever, a standout being a Neopolitan striped number with a shirred waist. And Buchman, of course, can cut a sharp jacket, which she did this time with three-quarter sleeves in robin's egg blue brocade, made cool when paired with a pleated tennis- or balloon-hemmed skirt. The styling, indeed, further aided the collection, adding a certain hip factor, and there were some surprisingly fresh looks in a few unexpected pairings, such as a floral, Empire-waist tunic with sharp blue-on-gray pinstriped trousers.
Gary Graham: Gary Graham's story begins with a girl who gets pulled from Catholic school — but don't think plaid jumpers and crisp button-downs styled to naughty Britney effect. It's still all about the three Ps, pretty, prim and proper, but here, Graham reworked parochial charm into a slightly tussled and undone look that still had a whiff of Victorian appeal. There were ruffled oxford blouses, twill army skirts and jackets, crocheted cardis, some hook-and-eye closures in lieu of zippers and plenty of corset-inspired looks, all of which came complete with a handcrafted appeal, raw edges and a washed-out palette to further set the collection in that faded, bygone era. And executed the way they were, with fastenings left unhinged and garments worn slightly off-kilter, the collection also made for a chic study in demure sex appeal.James Coviello: It's hard not to get swept up in James Coviello's fantasy worlds, which this season referenced a mix of historical French periods, from rococo to neoclassical. Held at the St. Regis Hotel, the heavy crystal chandeliers and gilt moldings properly set the tone for what was to come: delicate, crochet boleros and camis; chinoiserie print chiffon gowns, and a number of puffed-sleeved, Josephine-waisted tops and frocks. The fringed paisley pieces might have been better left to the guillotines, but Coviello made up for them with the seersucker numbers and the pretty grosgrain ribbons — done up in bows, rosettes or beaded and sequined — that circled high around the waist to create an Empire effect.
Joanna Mastroianni: Joanna Mastroianni was like "The Little Engine That Could." For years, she chugged along, picking up speed and expanding her core looks with those ladylike evening dresses and cocktail suits, tweaked with a touch of glitz. But until recent seasons, the aesthetic was aimed at a more sophisticated clientele. Now, she's loosened the mood of her collection with Grecian-inspired evening looks, romantic and pretty short dresses and gowns in layers of bright or bold floral silk chiffon with plunging necklines and backs, draped bodices and elaborately beaded belts. But the best example of the designer's approach to attracting a younger, edgier crowd was the white ribbed cotton tank with its beaded neckline and embroidered skirt and the sheer embroidered vest over a long skirt in white silk. Still, some of this newfound fashion freedom needed to be reined in a bit, such as the fringes and ostrich feathers, which were overdone.
Ruffian: Brian Wolk and Claude Morais sent out a mostly march-to-their-own-drummer collection for Ruffian. While that's often a good thing, this season, it was more jarring and out of sync than interesting, with huge dolman and lantern sleeves and some lackluster shapes in too-shiny ribbon-knit sweaters and dresses. But those boys sure knew what to do when they got hold of a bevy of silks in charred navy. Here, almost everything was beautifully cut and chic. A soft charmeuse shirt was shown with a terrific crystal-belted, pleated yoke skirt in tussah; the slender jumper and a crystal-appliquéd butterfly dress in georgette were also winners, which proves that a little restraint can go a long way.Y & Kei: It looks like Hanii Y and Gene Kei of Y & Kei finally have found the golden ticket for a perfectly polished wardrobe. In the past, the designers have struggled to find the right balance for their romantic-with-an-edge collection, but the duo's spring lineup was bursting with just the right mix, from feminine, white eyelet blouses, to chic, front-pleat skirts belted with bows, to a slew of ethereal gowns in sand and black. By mixing textures, such as linen and jacquard — many accented with delicate metallic beading or embroidery — each look was a delicious surprise.
Atil Kutoglu: It was the spirit of Turkey's coastal resorts that seemed to be the most inspiring for Atil Kutoglu. Terrific caftans, both short and long, sailed down the runway in breezy cotton voile or airy silk chiffon and organza. And a bevy of beach looks in bright printed cotton — shorts and hooded tops over white bikinis — stayed the course. But he wandered too far from that appealing seaside mood with silver silk brocade coats, dresses and jackets that looked stiff and bulky.