NEW YORK - At New York Fashion Week on Wednesday, the designers weren't just looking to their muses for inspiration - they were raiding the muses' closets.
The draped, asymmetrical Greek goddess look dominated, complementing the one-shoulder styles that have been so popular on the runways.
The look was strong and sexy without being revealing, and popped up with a sexy '70s spin at Halston, in a fresh gingham at Michael Kors and in a flowy drape at Max Azria. Nearly every designer had an interpretation of the look - quite a feat with more than 100 designers showing at New York Fashion Week over eight days.
OSCAR DE LA RENTA
There's a difference between youthful and young. Oscar de la Renta, one of the statesmen of American fashion, found ways to add vitality to a spring collection that still caters to his sophisticated, uptown woman.
Tie-dye looks anything but hippyish when presented on a gathered silk faille skirt, paired with either a white cotton blouse with an embroidered flower applique or a taffeta jacket. And the crocheted styles on de la Renta's runway at a former Park Avenue church included a chic navy sweater in a geometric pattern and a white sweater-dress shift.
Several of the gowns - always the highlight of a de la Renta collection - were sultry because of their shimmer and shape but not because they were too bare.
With a yellow polka-dot bikini on the runway and a soundtrack that included the Beach Boys and the Go-Gos, even a crowd growing weary of New York Fashion Week - now in day six - couldn't help but get into Michael Kors' cheerful, bouncy show.
Kors, in his notes, described the collection as "Triple A ... architectural, athletic and American." The catwalk oozed red, white and blue, with pops of yellow, and there were a lot of classic Kors.
The sporty touch came in scuba-style neoprene, which can make a remarkably stylish skirt suit especially in royal blue. There also was a zip-front, tech-fabric surf dress in royal and black that was flattering and ready for anything. For men, there were cotton trousers in a floral print you'd expect to see on board shorts worn with a yellow sailcloth blazer.
If other designers have tapped spring as the season of the corset, Narciso Rodriguez isn't buying it.
Rodriguez is a master of tight construction and the bustier-style bodice, but he veered from his signature in his newest collection, previewed Tuesday night in front of Jessica Alba and celebrity loyalists Claire Danes, Julianna Margulies and Jessica Seinfeld - all of whom rarely miss a Rodriguez show.
Instead of a corset, Rodriguez achieved a slim, fitted silhouette with banding, while other spring-season outfits embraced the looser, draped look that also has emerged as a trend.
Pack your bags: Anna Sui's spring runway took the retailers, stylists and editors at New York Fashion Week on a sunny, happy trip. Judging from the matador details and Aztec prints, the likely destination was Latin America.
Sui's versions of the loose and easy style that has dominated the catwalks were brightly colored shifts embroidered with butterflies and flowers, or habutai tunics worn over skinny-leg capris.
For after the sun goes down, there were festive dance dresses and short flared skirts. There were at least a half-dozen rompers, ranging from a lingerie-inspired one to a cutesy cotton floral. And Sui's jumpsuits weren't aiming to be super sexy as they've done in other collections; hers were meant to be worn during the day, even to work.
Young designers need to be edgy to be cool; they need to sell their clothes to stay in business. Phillip Lim tried to bridge those often contrasting ideas in a conceptual presentation of many wearable pieces.
There was a loose theme of a bullfighter - and that translated into a castanet-covered organza tank top, a conquistadora black leather jacket and a matador vest with gold-ribbon details. Several boleros topped feminine dresses that picked up on the loose shape and ruffles that have become trends at the Bryant Park tents.
Phillip Lim 3.1 also includes menswear, but many of those looks were less likely to translate to the everyman - or even the hipster. The pieces included a seafoam-green, button-down shirt with a beaded collar and a castanet pin on a shrunken tuxedo.
Easy and breezy won the day at Doo.Ri, where designer Doo-Ri Chung created a solid collection of comfortable slouchy sportswear in muted colors like nudes and grays, all accented with shocks of hot pink, neon coral, emerald green and royal blue.
Formfitting dresses in blue and green had neon yellow piping that followed the body's curves, and blue blouses with ruffles and tiers at the sides were tamed with gray patent belts with wide futuristic buckles.
In addition to her signature pleated bubble shorts, now in khaki and a dressier watery sea green, Chung showed pants in jersey and twill that were the love child of jodphurs and leggings. The bottoms were loose and slouchy but tapered tight around the ankle, ending with a banded hem.
Hollywood will be seeing a touch of China next spring, as red-carpet favorite Marchesa showed off a collection influenced by chinoiserie.
Gorgeous floral hand-woven embroidery, gilded piping and mandarin collars reigned as designer Georgina Chapman, wife of studio mogul Harvey Weinstein, mingled with guests like actress Amanda Bynes, stylist Rachel Zoe and "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee.
A particularly striking piece was a black chiffon dress with gold embroidery that created a pattern of Chinese villages and curlicue clouds. Another, sure to show up on an Oscar-bound starlet this award season, was a strapless satin column embroidered with flowers. From each flower burst petals made of feather plumes.
Like many of the designers at New York Fashion Week, Nanette Lepore found inspiration in the garden. But Lepore must have done her wandering through the greenery in the evening as her floral prints had a more delicate, dustier tone, tempering the teal, lime, red and hibiscus pink that dominated the palette.
The silhouette generally was the loose and easy shape that has become a signature of the spring collections, and she alternated between casual linen fabrics and jazzy beads as favorite materials. She successfully mixed prints - stripes, florals and animal prints - in single garments.
She also tapped into the asymmetrical trend, which added an ethereal goddess vibe to many of the dresses, even a leather dress that had a ruffle down one side.
Monique Lhuillier is primarily known as a bridal and red-carpet designer but her spring collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week showed her ability to pull off more relaxed looks, too - even if they're best suited to a really luxurious resort.
She offered outfits in billowy chiffon, feminine organza and, surprisingly, denim. A pleated cocktail dress with embroidered Aztec cap sleeves elevated denim to a whole new category. There also was a chambray jacquard cocktail dress with a crisscross pleated halter top that was lovely.
Goddess gowns really ruled this runway, especially a black one-shoulder gown with a gold-ribbon embroidered neckline and one with a white silk georgette halter.