Mirror, Mirror: Simple shapes, dark and serious

To exotic floral prints, Tracy Reese adds a riding helmet and oversize sunglasses.
To exotic floral prints, Tracy Reese adds a riding helmet and oversize sunglasses. (BEBETO MATTHEWS / Associated Press)
Posted: February 15, 2012

NEW YORK - Live worldwide streaming, the ability to order collections right off the runway, and an American Express Skybox Lounge are making New York Fashion Week feel more like a sporting event at the Wells Fargo Center than the industry-only style fete it once was.

And it seems that this corporate influence is translating to the Lincoln Center runway in a dark and serious way.

"It's a very minimalistic, very austere vibe," said Jen Sord, news fashion director at Lucky magazine. "It's a very quiet season. There are some hints of 1960s cocktail embellishments combined with some '90s suiting, but the '70s moment is over."

Fall 2012 continues to focus on a slim-silhouette, all-American sportswear look. Some volume exists in the bevy of blazers with peplum detailing and in the soft, pleated, ankle-length skirts. But for the most part, trousers - albeit in bold colors - will remain skinny. Most dresses are sheath-shaped. The graphic-print blouses you will be buying this spring and summer will transition easily to winter with the help of a turtleneck or long-sleeved sheer mock T.

Shapes are so simple, they border on boring.

But like apps that transform our individual iPhones into something unique - technology, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, also is detracting from Fashion Week's celebrity status - there is some excitement in the handcrafted details and color combinations of otherwise predictable pieces.

Palettes range from edgy black splattered with reds to heavily saturated blocks of color.

Designers aren't hesitating to seamlessly layer accessories into their ensembles. Floppy fedoras, riding hats, and elbow-length gloves - leather and knit - are fresh.

And I suspect touches borrowed from evening wear will be the mark of well-dressed businesswomen as designers heavily interspersed sparkles, sheer fabric, and fur into daytime looks.

"We continue to see a lot of fusion in fashion," explained Nicole Fischelis, fashion director of Macy's. "There is a lot of combining different textures in clothing, and there is a strong emphasis on menswear."

Here are the major trends that will go from runway to retail this fall.

Bold prints. Vibrant florals and three-dimensional graphics will give prints a perennial personality this year.

Tracy Reese's collection is a busy, yet electrically beautiful, grouping of exotic floral prints and checked patterns. She paired wide-brimmed riding hats and oversize sunglasses for an of-the-moment feel, leaving fashionistas talking after the show. A taxicab-yellow, fur-trimmed trench could easily double as a dress, and the metallic sheaths made the collection playful. Prabul Gurung worked an eye-popping cobalt blue into his florals.

While Philadelphia favorite Nicole Miller toned down the hue of her florals, her aesthetic wasn't any less chic. A pair of patchwork shorts with patterned tights were appropriately cold-weather-friendly thanks to the companion fur-trimmed trench. Still, I wouldn't try this look on Walnut Street. Brrr.

Colorblocking. Max Azria sent his BCBG-clad models down the runway in warm-hued, airy dresses, pleated skirts, and patchwork jackets, while LaCoste's designers clearly had visions of ski slopes in their red, white and blue minidresses, turtlenecks, and trousers.

Tommy Hilfiger took his colors down a notch from their usual primary hues, infusing mustards and maroons into his mostly monochromatic looks.

However, the Diane von Furstenberg collection she aptly named Rendez Vous showed the most sophisticated use of bold color.

Von Furstenberg's midlength, pencil-skirt outfits featured unforgettable combinations like mustard-yellow trousers and watermelon blouses. The line also featured jumpsuits with black-and-white chainlink prints.

Edgy black. Monochromatically speaking, black is back for fall. (So what else is new?)

Millennial Fashion Week regulars, from Vogue darling Alexander Wang to Project Runway alum Christian Siriano, made black the focal point of their collections in swank, clingy fabrics, from velvet to silk jersey.

DKNY funked up her slim black silhouette with leather. Short, ruffle-hemmed skirts and boyfriend jackets with contrasting sleeves were nice touches.

Monique Lhullier and Rag & Bone did black with hot pops of red. Lhullier's collection was sleek, and I'm pretty sure those body-skimming, one-shouldered dresses and ankle-length fishtail skirts will make their way to a red carpet soon. A pleated, floral, gray trench coat had me salivating.

Rebecca Taylor creatively layered black peplum tops over skinny trousers for a great easy-to-wear work look. She incorporated knits, too. Her black was the most wearable.

Soft pleats. Tadashi Shoji infused his pleats with class, putting them in gowns with sheer, black, gauzy skirts and metallic, long-sleeved tops.

While Azria worked pleating into his ever-popular warm-weather maxi dress, he added some metallics and darkened the hues. Presto! The to-die-for dresses were winterized.

Reese's pleats were on above-the-knee skirts, and Doo Ri Chung has a fashion winner in the form of a metallic ankle-length dress with pleating from the bodice to the hemline.

Sheer illusions. Sheer fabrics will be a key trend for fall, whether in skirts, as in Siriano's collection, in long sleeves by Lhullier, or worked into dresses à la Rebecca Taylor.

It's these textures combined with sequins and metallic silks that are giving fall's daytime looks a little boogie.

But the effect is more Wall Street than wicked.

"Although everything is covered up, this see-through element adds a bit of boldness to everything," Sord said. "In a covered-up season, this is what makes the pieces sexy."

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704, ewellington@phillynews.com,

or @ewellingtonphl on Twitter.

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