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Beads, ruffles and bows shouted, “Look at me!” for fall, while softly tailored classics registered more of a whisper.

Zac Posen: In an about-face from last season’s stark Shaker-inspired outing, Zac Posen sent out a lineup of sexy-sweet baby dolls, some with a come-hither boudoir flair. It was a big change, and a delightful one, as Posen, who has at times struggled with misguided themes, found a great fit for his signature dramatic flourish. He started with a tuxedo-inspired series: black-and-white bib dresses, some shot with red and sparkling with embroideries, and an inventive take on a smoking jacket in sheer chiffon. While he managed to work in a smartly tailored pantsuit, his clear preference was for fanciful, unabashedly feminine fare, which he delivered with plenty of sizzle in frocks that were pleated, flounced and feathered, including one that looked very “Pretty Baby” in pink organdy and black tulle. And if the blousy lattice prints, bow ties and Peter Pan collars winked toward Miu Miu, Posen made the looks his own, particularly at the finish. His gauzy, full-skirted “fairy-tale” finale in shades of dove gray, pink and blush was the stuff of a girly dream.

Tommy Hilfiger: “It’s a new chapter in our lives,” said Tommy Hilfiger preshow. “I’m going from designing for girls to designing for women — this is going to be the year of the lady.” Indeed, he stuck to that mandate, right down to the show space: Lincoln Center’s swanky Avery Fisher Hall. The collection aimed for a similarly refined tone, as in a twill trapeze trench paired with a bow-front dress or a black silk tuxedo gown, with the mood veering toward Sixties Audrey Hepburn. Notably, logos and denim were nowhere to be seen. But despite this fresh sweep, the collection lost its pace halfway through the show, with much of it, especially the evening looks, looking somewhat watered down and lacking finesse.

Daryl K/Kerrigan:
Daryl Kerrigan may still be a downtown girl at heart, but she has upped her downtown ethos (read: nonchalant-yet-edgy) with some serious chic. At her presentation for both Daryl K and the contemporary-priced Kerrigan, the designer kept the lineups tight in an effort to, as she put it, “reduce the carbon footprint.” The latter collection, Kerrigan noted, is more true to herself, nodding to her label’s roots in Eighties punk. And, indeed, there was plenty of that casual-cool streetwear with which she has made her name. Consider her sporty bomber, or the plaid hoodie thrown over a hot pink dress. Daryl K, meanwhile, played to Kerrigan’s dressier side with roomy tunics and shirtdresses embellished with snaps, not to mention a stylishly slouchy chambray suit. She even tossed in a swingy alpaca car coat. The highlight: a stretch silk gown dubbed the “recession dress,” with cool adjustable braided straps and décolletage. Who doesn’t love a little more-bang-for-your-buck appeal?

This story first appeared in the February 11, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Jenni Kayne: A string quartet’s upmarket version of grunge anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit” set the tone at Jenni Kayne, where the designer riffed on the Nineties, yet still mixed in a sophisticated Thirties flair. But don’t get visions of Marc Jacobs. This was pure Kayne, full of polished flannel suits — worn slouchy, of course — and gorgeous floor-skimming skirts that were cut close to the body, paired with a crisp checked wool shirt or a drapy short-sleeve coat hemmed in fur.


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