After a fabulous outing for fall in which Stella McCartney delivered a deliberate message of optimism and women’s empowerment, spring found her in a more subdued state of mind — at least, as telegraphed by her clothes. They weren’t quiet per se; On the contrary, many were plenty feisty. But rather than home in on one or two key messages, whether purely sartorial or encompassing a larger cultural point, here McCartney’s seemed content to offer a straightforward series of wardrobe suggestions. “Exploring classic tailoring and signature silhouettes…A joyful exploration of British style,” she wrote in her program notes. This resulted in a lineup of fine clothes that never coalesced with the clarity of her best collections.

If there was an overarching motif, it was volume, evidenced most boldly in the juxtaposition of vibrant, long taffeta skirts and denim or cotton jersey tops. The look proved fanciful in proportion and spirit. Though some women might shy away from the scale — the tops were huge — one couldn’t help but smile at the giant jean jacket over hot-pink peplum skirt. Ditto the overdyed denims. A happy audacity radiated from the acid green onesie and a three-piece, notice-me ensemble for the street: blue jacket with big utility pockets over pink shirt and green jeans. Also casually flamboyant: full-cut, unstructured dresses in prints that riffed on classic African patterns, one each incorporating an electric fan and microphone motif. When McCartney translated the unfettered silhouette into evening, it worked beautifully, her one-shouldered, ruffled red sack dress a glam charmer. Conversely, a shapely “debutante” dress with puffed sleeves and peplum recalled the Eighties with excessive gusto.  As for the tailoring, it looked appealing and, as per the show notes, “timeless” — a little too much so, though macramé straps on cross-body bags lent a nice artisanal touch.

Perhaps the collection’s biggest news came in McCartney’s ongoing development and expanded use of “Skin-Free-Skin.” Examples came in they’re-not-leather genie pants, “alter napa” leopard-pattern appliqués and alter-snake and alter suede-bags. One might say they look like the real thing, though McCartney would likely object. As she sees it, “alter” is the real thing — nothing fake about it.

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