16 September 2010

Long as a California Summer

NY Times

Hot pants are not likely to be chased into the woodwork, fans and onlookers will be happy to hear, but they will have to yield next summer to the long, plain skirt.

Designers, thinking of the 1990s or maybe the mythical California girl, have suddenly given longer hemlines a vote of approval. On Wednesday, Michael Kors opened his cheerful show with an ankle-grazing skirt in linen gauze and a matching pullover. For Narciso Rodriguez, an architect of ’90s, post-Calvin Klein minimalism, the look was more specific to New York, and to a happy period in his own life.

He said after his excellent show on Tuesday night at Lincoln Center that he had been thinking of his friend, the late Carolyn Bessette, and how she and other women they knew used to throw a coat over a long dress and go out for the night. That was certainly the sense imparted by a powdery pink silk slip dress worn with an ashy gray linen canvas coat.

All of the hemlines in Mr. Rodriguez’s collection were mid-calf, and the lines were loose, essentially based on a T-shirt or slip. His other smart gesture was to show a relaxed pair of boy trousers in dry-looking black wool with a series of different tank tops or pullovers composed of layers of black chiffon and pale silk, creating a smoked effect or a shimmer of beading.

The idea isn’t all that original, and not so different from a socialite chucking an old coat over her evening dress, but the look feels right again. A new fashion almost always comes about as a reaction to something else — long skirts after a summer or two of minis and short shorts — and Mr. Rodriguez’s blush-to-pink dresses may have stood out because they were said with a whisper.

With Cat Stevens on the soundtrack at Mr. Kors’s show, you just sort of hummed along until you fell into a hopeless groove. Wunderbar! The collection was a fine granola mix of tank tops, pj’s, roomy trench coats, long grass-colored knits and crinkled hemp linen, including a tunic worn with a pair of platform sandals and thick woolly socks.

Again, hardly a new look to someone who lives in Los Angeles or Austin, but Mr. Kors made the story seem fresh, spiking the sun-faded neutrals with iris and daffodil and reaffirming the looser, longer proportions for next summer.

Ralph Rucci skipped a runway show this season and instead presented his clothes himself in his SoHo showroom. To call the collection a refinement of his style — splicing, say, horsehair into arcs of wool or creating sound-wave patterns in the sheer midriff of a black dress — would be to minimize his efforts. He used more cotton than he is known for; the most striking example was a perfect little shift of brown suede with square panels of black cotton and a suede cord belt. Lanky it was, and he should think about expressing that attitude in other styles.

Other standout looks included a creamy matte jersey day dress with cartridge pleating, a flirty cocktail dress in coral silk taffeta with a beaded top done in an open basket weave, and a sliver of a long black silk gown meant to be worn with a popover top embroidered with glassy-white bugle beads.

Sophie Theallet is the most recent winner of the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fund award for emerging talent, and you could see in her collection on Tuesday night at Lincoln Center that she put her prize money to good use — in the materials and construction of her clothes.

Always indifferent to the loop of trends and recycled ideas, Ms. Theallet expanded her number of silhouettes. For a sleeveless dress that was draped easily at one side, she used a cotton print of birds, their wings forming a kind of abstract lattice. Another cotton print, in deep red and blue, suggested a woodcut. And she had several day dresses with full sleeves that narrowed to just above the elbow, a line that looked fresh.

The size and dark atmosphere of her space, with the models pausing on a raised platform, did not work in her favor, and the clothes deserved to be viewed in a context that suited their detail and real sense of mystery. Among the exquisite looks, and new from Ms. Theallet, was a long evening dress in snake-green silk charmeuse with one shoulder tossed with black lace.

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