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A Special Report:

The Ten Best Looks of the New York Fall 2006 Season

- by Bernadine Morris, senior editor Bernadine was for thirty years the senior fashion writer of The New York Times. Photos by Randy Brooke.

It is not likely that many observers will refer to the Olympus Fashion Week for Fall 2006 as an extravagant time. Sober, yes. But as Bill Cunningham, perhaps fashion’s wisest observer has noted, "the clothes are rather ‘wishy washy.’ No big trend? No major development? It does indeed put the fashion week to shame.

Of course there were some good clothes. Eight days of showings roughly from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. makes this obligatory. And usually there was enough water to drink, an occasional snack and even a cafe. There were other good things. The blizzard held off until the shows were over, waiting time between shows was usually manageable and seating arrangements were reasonably efficient.

These are the plus factors. But what about the clothes? Where was the designer who put the others to shame? Where was the new idea that made one long for new clothes? Neither the designer nor the idea really existed. Still, there were some memorable collections.

Long blonde hair an important accessory with a luxury look.

Carolina Herrera showed one of these early in the week when she sent her models out on the runway swinging their straight blonde sparkling hair that made most of the clothes look contemporary. Nothing smashing. Just attractive clothes that had a touch of luxury about them. Fur was one of her luxury details, but never going over the top. There was plenty of sparkle too. Tulle skirts, embroidered dresses were just enough for a touch of class for evening.

Dressy but not extravagant for evening.

Oscar de la Renta, a standby of the America collections, didn’t go in for extravagant stuff either. He didn’t go in for old Russian or Mongolian styles. He simply made pretty dresses that didn’t distort the body or weigh it down with extravagance. The clothes looked graceful, whether they were evening dresses or sweater coats and shearling jackets.

The casual look, anywhere in the world.

On a totally different plane, Michael Kors proved the world was still safe for sportswear. Casual clothes have a place in American life and, a few seasons back, he proved they had a place in French life too. Navy, charcoal and loden are his temperate colors for his casual clothes.

Conservative but glamorous evening dress.

Michael Vollbracht has had a tough time adapting to the Bill Blass tradition, but he has apparently succeeded. He is one of the successes of the season. Nicely tailored suits, dresses and coats for day and elegant evening dresses carry on the Blass look. The evening clothes are neat and controlled, the way Blass liked them.

Back view important for dress wear.

Donna Karan started her career with easy pieces that women could put together as they saw fit. She has moved on to more glamour clothes, but the ease remains. Her open-back dresses are made to move about in. The bare backs are filled in with tulle and are different from everybody else’s clothes. Her molded coats also have a distinctive look.

Delicate for evening - this one in red.

Francesca Costa is another winner. He manages to give the traditional Calvin Klein look a new lightness and freedom. Sheer black dresses, beautifully draped and pleated, look gentle and sexy. They‘re occasionally varied with a bright red dress and there are important coats, once an integral part of the Calvin Klein look.

Loose, floaty dress the opposite of von Furstenberg usual way.

Diane von Furstenberg has come a long way from the wrap dresses with which she first made her reputation. She now does simple shirtdresses in small prints, big plaids and an occasional loose tent dress that might even be a successor to the wrap.

Super sportswear with a British accent and touch of luxury.

Ralph Lauren still prefers hunting clothes, preferably with a British accent. Nobody does them better. Cashmere cardigans and ponchos with gun patches, leggings, very narrow pants alongside some wide ones and some distinctive leather jackets are part of his casual doctrine. Tulle skirts provide evening fare.

Ruffles & flounces gives Betsey's clothes a young look.
Betsey Johnson has been plying her trade for a long time and manages to make her clothes funny and attractive. They have a young feeling, which is amazing after all these years. Ruffles, puff sleeves and sequins are all part of her technique.

Incredible cuts & seams mask Rucci's couture quality clothes.

By far the climax of the New York shows was the Chado Ralph Rucci collection which had the grandeur of the French couture, unbelievable cuts and seaming and a feeling of elegance that was seen nowhere else in the world. It was fashion at its highest and the rapt attention of the audience made it clear that something special was going on. It gave the New York collections its final sense of authority.


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