The silhouettes in spring previews that entered a fourth day Sunday aren't necessarily skin tight, but it's not a season of full-on floaty frocks, either.
"We've gone so far away from overt sexiness, but the reality is, sex sells. At some point the shopper wants to be sexy," said Hal Rubenstein, fashion director of InStyle magazine. "Illusion fabric on a shoulder or a little skin showing on a midriff gives you a hint without giving it all away."
Victoria Beckham continued the trend with bra-style tops. Many of Alexander Wang's looks were seemingly held together by fishing wire. Rag & Bone flashed some skin with strategic cutouts and at Peter Som, midriff-baring cutouts were carved into ladylike sheath dresses.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week continues through Thursday before the fashion crowd heads to London, Milan and Paris.
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
Diane von Furstenberg called her spring collection "Palazzo." ''La Dolce Vita" also would have worked.
The muse has "the polish of a princess and the heart of a gypsy," von Furstenberg said, and she travels from Rome to Marrakesh and then off to Jaipur, India.
She takes with her on this journey tunics and skinny-leg pants — practically silk leggings — to wear during the day, and a blood-orange scarf gown attached to a silver choker and cuff bracelets for the night. She brings her kiwi-green gown with a cutout neckline just in case she'll need it for a last-minute, black-tie invitation.
The trip is definitely more play than work, a bit of a departure for von Furstenberg whose label often is the workhorse of a career woman. But these clothes fuel the fantasy she might be having at her desk.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin was on hand and Von Furstenberg and some of the models wore Google Glasses that were collecting video for a project to be released on Google-Plus and YouTube on Thursday.
Victoria Beckham's show not only looks like her signature pulled-together, well-edited style, but it feels like her, too.
She's the thoughtful hostess with waiters offering morning juice to the crowd at the New York Public Library, but she keeps the guest list very tight. She's one of the biggest draws of the week, but there's no frenzy of paparazzi photographers. (Husband David Beckham, however, did take some photos from his seat.)
Beckham said she checks — or doublechecks — every look to make sure "it looks good from every angle."
The clothes for spring had a delicacy that she said was new for her this season, although the clothes remained substantial and structured. It was the touch of illusion lace, the lingerie bra top or hemline of pleated chiffon that took the edge off banded short skirts, zip-back sheaths and shirtdresses.
The lingerie influences built on her knowledge of corsetry and fell naturally into the collection, Beckham explained after the show. Black and white were dominant as elsewhere in these spring collections, and Beckham used a poppy red as her bold contrast color. She was more interested in texture than crazy colors, she said, noting the black dress she was wearing, which mixed canvas, georgette, lace and chiffon.
"I want to design what I want to wear," she said.
What can stop traffic in always-bustling New York? Donna Karan in a taxicab-yellow raincoat.
Karan took her bow in the eye-catcher at Sunday's DKNY New York Fashion Week preview to the delight of the fashion insiders and to the passers-by on the street who could peek in the open doors to the Chelsea studio space.
She turned out a collection of mostly sporty looks featuring white perforated leather (think golf-glove material), camouflage prints, bathing suits-turned-bodysuits, bra tops and long neoprene dresses with mesh backs and sexy inserts. One of those dresses was in the same super-bright yellow that Karan wore.
DKNY is supposed to dress its customers every day and for every occasion, said Karan in a post-show interview: "When I can wear the same thing as the girls on the runway, I've done my job."
Tracy Reese rode her Michelle Obama bump from the Democratic National Convention to the runway, putting on a show of juxtapositions in color, textiles and embellishments.
"It's still such a big high," Reese smiled backstage after the show. "It reminded us how grateful we have to be to live in this country."
In a range of foliage greens, cool blues, warm ochre, tangerine and crimson, Reese put wide bands of flat industrial shingle sequins on airy loose trousers in yellows and reds.
She mixed a dainty, beaded floral pattern on top of one sleeveless shift dress with zigzags outlined in black sequins against bold blue on the bottom. Reese worked in phosphorescents to embroider bright pink flowers on the top of a tunic, using the same technique in yellow in a tribal pattern at the bottom.
Anything for the first lady this time around?
"We have a lot more back in the showroom," Reese said. "I think there's going to be a lot of things that she'll like."
Burgundy foil paillettes for cocktails or skinny madras plaid trousers with matching jacket in a military green for the office? You can take your pick from Derek Lam's spring collection.
Lam's edgy but wearable runway at a downtown venue included black lambskin halter tops and a fitted black leather dress with a pleated hem. Solid-color leather pieces, including a foldover bodice vest and matching skirt in bright blue, stood in contrast to lasercut foil accents on dresses and skirts and macrame and lace work in tweeds and basketweave patterns.
Lam went metallic gold for a skirt with macrame that stopped at the knee. Most hems landed just above or below the knee.
Kyle Anderson, the accessories director for Marie Claire, said Lam creates what many young women want, including those who crave fashion but may not be looking to take extreme risks.
"It's never weird," Anderson said. "It's always something new, always something fresh. He delivers every single time."
The audience at Alexander Wang is trained to know the best is coming last.
The mostly inventive black-and-white, pieced-leather looks that filled the first part of Saturday's show would have held Wang's place as one of the princes of cool. There were sporty parkas, tops inspired by hockey jerseys and even some more refined halter dresses.
Wang could have called it a collection and be done with it.
However, the final parade of nine models — all wearing a cream color — had their embroidered tank tops, pencil skirts, crewneck dresses and Bermuda shorts turn into glow-in-the-dark lightsticks when they assumed a final pose on the runway and the lights went out.
Wang also created a stir by having model Liberty Ross — the wife of the director Kristen Stewart had an affair with — walk the runway, along with the likes of Erin Wasson. Jennifer Aniston's fiance actor Justin Theroux sat in the front row along with rapper A$AP Rocky.
"In such a short time, Alex has redefined urban utility," said Laura Brown, Harper's Bazaar features and special projects director, who picked a cut-out silver dress as her favorite. "There's always a sexiness to his clothes, but this season he brought a glamour, too."
It was a rainy Saturday night in Manhattan, and getting a taxi was murder. But fashionistas lined up patiently under umbrellas, undeterred, to catch one of the most buzz-worthy spring previews of Fashion Week: that of rising star Joseph Altuzarra.
Inside the Industria Superstudio in the chic meatpacking district, the excitement was palpable. Actress Kate Bosworth, a big Altuzarra fan, kissed acquaintances and greeted Mamie Gummer, the actress daughter of Meryl Streep. The NBA's Tyson Chandler posed for photos not far from actress Jessica Chastain.
The looks that greeted them on the runway were a combination of the very casual — navy-and-white striped cotton jackets and overcoats, for example, evoking kids' overalls — and the glamorous, in the form of gold fringes on everything from skirts to tanks, and crystal-encrusted garments like dramatic scarves draped high around the neck. Workday looks of simple cotton graduated to looks that suddenly shimmered and glistened under the lights, occasionally perhaps a bit blindingly.
"He's going sky-high," said Nina Garcia, the "Project Runway" judge. "A real original."
The red carpet during the upcoming Hollywood awards season could be a sea of ocean-inspired gowns if Monique Lhuillier has anything to do with it.
Lhuillier, a favorite source for celebrity gowns, presented a bright aqua lace gown draped with a tulle overlay that gave the illusion of rippling waves — and so did a one-shoulder tiered gown in crepe. A sea-glass green gown was embroidered with sparkly beads and had a low, sheer illusion back, and a textured jacquard strapless gown with a trumpet hemline was an underwater kaleidoscope of colors, including blues, greens and purple.
"The inspiration this season came from a wonderful trip I had in Turkey and I was on a boat and I was looking at the beautiful landscape and water and I was like, that's it. This is the feeling I want for spring," Lhuillier said backstage.
"The Emmys are coming up and some of the looks have been selected so they're on hold," said Lhuillier. Bet the gold, coral-embellished sculpted gown that served as the finale is one them.
AP writers Leanne Italie and Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.