Fashion shows are all about timing -- hitting the right notes before the right audience and then building to a crescendo. That's what New York Fashion Week pulled off Friday, with grand finales by some of the field's most accomplished maestros.
Ralph Lauren led the lineup, with Donna Karan and Karl Lagerfeld showing later in the day. Also on the schedule were Sweetface by Jennifer Lopez and a fall preview by Matthew Williamson.
Donna Karan: With this season's emphasis on the working woman, it's no surprise that Karan -- one of the first designers to court this customer -- delivered daytime styles that balanced chicness and ease.
Karan revived the bodysuit that made her famous, added silver embellishments to it, and put it under both a sophisticated molded gray coat with a V-neck and a more fashion-forward tiger print coat.
Sheer panels along the hem of a black skirtsuit added a hint of sexiness, and sheer fabrics on the back or sleeves of otherwise simple dresses and tops had the same effect.
The gowns were interesting because of their rolled waistbands and "illusion" panels, but the fabrics were mostly felt or wool, making them too casual for the red carpet or charity ball circuits. Sweetface: Jennifer Lopez told her audience that her fall
collection hit the next level in design, fit and fabrication. She was right.
Instead of the glorified teen clothes she showed a year ago on a big glittery catwalk, Lopez offered chunky knit sweaters, skinny pants and a modern shirtdress that were in line with the trends seen this week.
A winter-white sweatercoat with navy trim and a navy tie around the waist was adorable, and a black lace bubble dress with a magenta hem was perfect for J.Lo's core fans.
Presumably, the slate blue lace dress the singer-actress wore at her preview was from Sweetface -- and the huge diamond cuff bracelet was not.
Ralph Lauren: Lauren created a complete wardrobe, pieces for every day of the week and just about every occasion, for the elegant woman who wants to look stylish but also wants to do it subtly.
Hmmm. Could this woman be Halle Berry? The actress graced Lauren's front row in a crisp gray pinstripe suit, her hair tied loosely in a ponytail.
After the parade of leggings paired with cozy sweaters, trim suits and metallic evening skirts, Berry gushed that she "loved the cashmere pieces." The clothes were almost all in a rugged loden green, except for a few flashes of purple.
A cable-knit cashmere poncho adorned with a jeweled brooch was the kind of piece you could wear over anything and instantly elevate your look. Lauren also showed a leather patch jacket over a turtleneck dress, perfect for the woman who spends fall weekends browsing antique stores in New England.
For fancier evenings, Lauren's preview also included a black silk dress laced with silver and a black satin turtleneck gown with an open back and beaded cuffs.
However, the black satin pants that pouffed out at the hip and narrowed below the knee looked like saddlebags, something equestrian Lauren should have recognized.
Matthew Williamson: Finally, some color on the runways! Williamson filled his catwalk with red, purple and blue. One of the best looks was a flame red gown with a candy-colored beaded belt.
Williamson's muse could have been a swank '70s housewife, someone who would wear a floor-length skirt and a bright patterned blouse to host a dinner party. But the overall look was modern.
A red shirtdress had a pleated hem to infuse a little lightheartedness, and a printed satin skirt with two bouncy tiers at the bottom peeked out from a tan peacoat.