NEW YORK — As the fashion shows progress, one thing is clear: Many designers are opting to keep things on the down low. But that’s not to say that everyone is sticking to that track; there are welcome splashes of color and excess in places. Either way, though, feminine looks — whether modest or sexy — are key.

For fall, Yigal Azrouel muted his familiar overt sex appeal in favor of a sophisticated lineup of suits, coats and dresses and cozy knits. The standouts were beautifully worked cotton shirts with intricate pintucks and sculpted sleeves. Despite its quota of cosmopolitan finish, however, the collection lacked energy.

Meanwhile, in a dilapidated ballet studio in Hell’s Kitchen, Marshall Leigh presented his second collection, this one called “Natural Disaster.” It was somber in mood and palette, and the silhouette of choice was the wrap, in the form of a dress, blouse or skirt, and many pieces featured burnt chiffon edging. One highlight was a raw-edged ecru cotton blazer over taupe wool culottes with a woven leather belt.

Douglas Hannant also kept things relatively quiet in his “Heritage” show, seeking comfort in the familiar. According to the program notes, “the patina of an old worn chair” or the faded wallpaper in an ancestral home were his inspirations. But it’s difficult to mesh aged and worn elements with the standard of luxury consistent with his previous efforts. While the leather or cashmere knickers and long embroidered coats were charming and even elegant, many of the fabrics — the fake tweed pattern or silk twills — appeared too dull.

The influence of mentors Michael Kors and Calvin Klein were clearly seen in British designer Deborah Hampton’s collection, which was all about luxe basics: cashmere crewnecks and cardigans and slim black pants. But she kept things fresh and modern with the sculpted poplin tops and a dress with a gathered front that suggested an ascot.

The Chanpaul and Robert Best collections were two louder blips on the radar. For the former, designer Paul Chan showed a refreshingly sweet collection with a whimsical Thirties mentality. The best looks included pleated tweed skirts, flirty chiffon tops with billowing sleeves over narrow pants and an appealing sweater and striped button-down shirt combo. Meanwhile, Robert Best, an Isaac Mizrahi alum, showed for the first time. His lineup, consisting mostly of stiff double-faced satins and ice cream-colored furs by Alixandre, ran the gamut of an after-eight wardrobe for a Holly Golightly-type — but not an updated one. The strongest piece was a pink mink dress coat that stood out among a too blatantly retro, and at times dowdy, presentation.

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