Ten Favorite Looks from the New York Spring 2008 Shows

- by Bernadine Morris, senior editor lookonline.com. Bernadine was for thirty years the senior fashion writer for The New York Times.

Possibly because the season is spring and the season less dour than winter. The clothes are at any rate more playful than usual. The colors are brighter, the prints more cheerful. The styles are more diverse, not only within each collection, but from show to show. Women will certainly have plenty of choices about lengths and shapes.

Whether it is the complexities.of modern life, the uncertain economic situation or the war situation, most clothes are not meant to dazzle. Theyíre meant to work: to look pretty , to feel comfortable, and to have a bit of imagination, though not too much. There is comfort in the familiar.

Squashed as they were between Labor Day and the Jewish Holidays, the collections may have limited the time designers had to fuss over their styles and this may have been a good thing. There may have been less time to overwork their ideas. The results at any rate were friendly, unlabored and appealing. The most outstanding presentation was that of Francisco Costa, who is carrying the mantle of Calvin Klein quite successfully. His clothes were elegant, simple and had their own distinctive look. Hemlines were midcalf, shoes were very high heel sandals and the models all looked tall and graceful. The shapes were fluid and there was no chance they would be mistaken for the work of any other designer. Mr. Costa is to be commended for developing his own style and keeping the Calvin Klein mystique intact.

The Bill Blass collection didnít fare so well. It was a reprise of the traditional Blass curriculum. The dresses were pleasant, easy to wear and pretty. Nothing riveting. The excuse was the clothes were credited to the Design Studio. Peter Som. who was recently appointed the head of design, obviously didnít have time to get to work.

Ralph Lauren had the most prestigious show when he decided to present his collection on upper Fifth Avenue instead of amid the canyons of lower Manhattan. He chose the Conservatory Garden at 105th Street covered it with a tent, established comfortable cushioned seating and a wide, shiny runway. It was his 40th anniversary and he celebrated it with grandeur for an audience. of more than 500 people.

The backdrop was a painting of horses surrounded by women in long gowns and men in black Panama hats and black suits. It gave a faintly nostalgic air to the proceedings. But basically it was a fashion show. Instead of cowboys and Indians, there were gl.amorous dresses and his favorite style, a snugly fitted jacket with a ripply peplum that appeared with long evening dresses, pants and even shorts. There was a faintly old fashioned look about the whole collection, but it also looked modern.

Oscar de la Renta also tried a new venue with some success. This was an old Christian Science church on Park Avenue. It too was fitted out with comfortable seating and there was also a choir; But the guest of honor was Roger Federer, the champion odthe U.S Tennis open who had just won his title the day before. He came with Anna Wintour and he roused great cheers from the audience.Oscar opened his collection on a casual note with neatly tailored pants suits, but he soon moved into lively printed dresses, jeweled shifts and flowered skirts. It was ineed vintage Oscar. and Mr. Federer paid close attention.

The established designers generally performed well and this includes Carolina Herrera who wore couture clothes by others before she began to make her own. She showed her share of sparkling dresses, ruffled blouses and decorated dresses for women who want to dress up .

Diane von Furstenberg who made her mark decades ago with snugly wrapped dresses has been doing well with loose styles that look superbly comfortable.Some have bold printed patterns and are amusing as well as easy to wear.

Donna Karan presented three collections--casual for men and women under DKNY, a more sophisticated group under the Donna Karan label. Among the DKNY clothes were short skirts. wrapped middles and lots of orange., Donna Karan had halter tops, bare backs and wide belts.

Anne Klein, for whom Donna Karan used to work, is now being styled by Isabel Toledo. There is no dominabt impression yet of what the Anne Klein look shold stand for though their are shiny pants, pletead tiers and thin gauzy fabrics.

Stripes and skirts turn up at Anna Sui,s lively collection. Ruffles and sequins are popular at Tracie Reese, Michael Kors gets behind sweater dresses and Reem Acra promotes cheerful flowers and full skirts.

Below are 10 of my favorite looks from the shows. They are in no particular order. All photos are by Randy Brooke. Click on images for larger views...

1. Calvin Klein: White dominates the Calvin Klein collection in pajamas, long skirts and coat dresses

Click on images for larger views

 2. Michael Kors: Peach and lime are off-beat combinations at Michael Kors who is best known for his sportswear
3. Donna Karan: Wide belts are key to Donna Karan's collection for day and night.
4. Diane von Furstenberg: who caused a sensation with her wrap dresses years ago, now shows elaborate loose ones
5. Ralph Lauren: Fitted jacket had faintly old fashion air at Ralph Lauren celebrating his 40 Anniversary
6. Carolina Herrera: Prints was a strong message at her show.
7. Oscar de la Renta: Off-beat prints decorate Oscar de la Renta's short dressy dresses.
8. Anna Sui: Strips are a feature of Anna Sui Spring 2008 collection on mostly short dresses.
9. Ralph lauren: Gentle pink short evening dress by Ralph Lauren with a swingy skirt. .
10. Tracy Reese: Big hats are important part of Tracy Reese's evening compositions.
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