FROM FLASHY VEGAS VAMPS AND SEQUINED SIRENS TO OH-SO-PROPER LADIES.
Mary McFadden: Mary McFadden has long understood a universal truth that eludes most historians, philosophers and, of course, designers. One common thread runs through the whole of world history, including ancient Greece, Indonesia and the cult of Osiris — the Marii pleat. For spring, the only retro at McFadden is McFadden. Amidst the usual suspects — the classic pleats, beading and harem skirts — there were some standouts: long, floating dresses in iridescent chiffon, and a long, silver crinkled organza dress with a silver beaded bodice.
Isabel Toledo: Toledo’s innovative and beautiful clothes are perfect for an edgier, downtown crowd — one that has money to accommodate its taste. And downtown is where the designer displayed her clothes, mostly on mannequins, in the Pucci International loft. Toledo’s clothes are always sensual, whether it’s in the sculpted fit of a sheer organza blazer, the romantic layering of pastel chiffons, a dramatically cut sleeve or the unabashed sizzle of a long, red satin coat over skinny pants.
Cynthia Rowley: It was much more than chance that made Cynthia Rowley’s Luck Be a Lady collection hit the jackpot. Betting on Vegas-inspired dresses and suits, she delivered a feminine and sexy message that left retailers like Rose Marie Bravo raving. As Frank and Tony crooned, out came vampy pink satin bias looks, shirtdresses and belted sequined suits straight from “Guys and Dolls.” Rowley kept the spirit of Elvis alive with some of the best snakeskin around, on sequined suits, A-line skirts and hip-huggers — pairing them with satin western shirts and Wayne Newtonesque tuxedo versions. There were touches of sweetness, too: long dresses in white cotton organdy, hemmed with pressed flowers.
DuPont Lycra: From satin to shrunken tops, many of spring’s key trends turned up at the DuPont Lycra group show. But for the most part, the 13 participating designers from New York and California went their own way, with plenty of short, feisty looks and classic sportswear and dresses. What stood out: sexy corset suits and mesh polo dresses from Kathryn Dianos; cropped tops and miniskirts in Palm Beach pastel plaids by Michele Bohbot; Rix’s fluid jackets and pants in crinkled cotton and Lycra spandex, and Martina Rossi’s hot ribbed halters over twirl skirts. The finale also provided some innovative bridal looks — Van Buren’s patent-trimmed gown, Tadashi’s wrapped mermaid and Dianos’s pleated Empire dress. Unfortunately, however, heavy-handed styling sometimes overpowered the clothes.
Joan Vass: Joan Vass always does her own thing, regardless of the trends. She had model Eve stripping down to a sexy black cotton knit string bikini, and Janice Dickinson looking a tad self-conscious in some slinky knit numbers. Little cropped racer-back sweaters and simple drop-stitch tank dresses were fresh and flattering, but the layered watercolor print chiffon dresses paled in comparison.
Gemma Kahng: Her show was short — just 49 looks — and sweet. This season, Kahng went the demure route with slim and full knee-length skirts and fitted jackets, many with little bows and flower-shaped buttons. Silk and linen Gazar dresses and a Fifties-inspired white linen sundress, worn with gloves, patent-leather purse and veiled hat, brought her ladylike theme home.
Ghost: The Ghost collection had it all — hippies, Salome, Donna Summer, even Lawrence Welk’s Champagne Lady, Nora Zimmer. What was missing: anything new. This collection is really about alternative basics rather than trends. And that’s to be applauded; not every staple is khaki pants. The clothes looked best in the opener when they were shown for what they are — pretty, flowing layers with a hint of the latter-day flower child. The problem, so apparent on the runway, is that this look has a finite range. Styling, like governments, can’t fool all the people all the time.
Bradley Bayou: Bayou did show some amusing looks, and even an elegant thing or two. He charmed the audience with pastel cropped sweaters and minis trimmed with black angora and a beige tweed car coat over a white patent-leather straight skirt. But the collection meandered, sometimes becoming too cute for words, or even vulgar — with pale suits over black bras, and clear vinyl vests with flowers.
Kenneth Richard: He’s always been a shape man, and this season Richard improved his technique, cutting some very good-looking clothes. There were wonderful fitted coat jackets, worn with belly-baring hip-huggers, and white-and-indigo print column dresses. Richard even brightened his outlook, adding mint, lavender and sunny yellow to his palette. But he should hang up the draped skirts — they dragged things down.
Jeanette Kastenberg: Should there be a show if there are only 17 outfits? Sure, there were a few nice things: a Liberty of London, narrow knee-length skirt with a belted, sequined jacket and some sequined siren dresses. But Jeanette should have forgotten the cheap, polkadot dresses — and probably skipped the presentation itself, as well.