Jacobs, Azria and Johnson on fall at New York Fashion Week

Halfway through New York Fashion Week, the buzz is that next season will offer clothes that are wearable, fairly modest and simple, except for the occasional metallic outfit. There have been a lot of daytime suits and shirtdresses for both working women and the ladies who lunch, and sweater coats to wear over them. Black and other dark autumnal colors dominate the palette.

However, no single look or designer has taken off as the must-have for fall. Monique Lhuillier: Lhuillier's days as a bridal gown designer pay off whenever she goes near lace and tulle, and the red-carpet gowns she previewed Tuesday morning were delicate, feminine and pretty. She alternated shapes between slim seamed sheaths and tufted ballgowns.

But the starlets who wear these dresses need to ward off autumn's chill, and Lhuillier offered them fur capelets, brocade coats and, for the daytime, a salt-and-pepper brocade peacoat. Marc Jacobs: There was no marching band this time, but Marc Jacobs' show was a crowd-pleaser nonetheless with a fall collection that was more Edie Sedgwick than Grace Kelly.

Jacobs cleverly took some ladylike standbys of his past few seasons and turned them into tough-girl accessories. Dainty tea party gloves became leather, elbow-length gloves; mary janes got a patent-leather makeover and their heels were raised to dizzying heights.

Traditional fall colors and cozy fabrics were punctuated by shimmer and shine. Huge sequin berets and metallic leather boots added bombastic accents to slouchy pants layered with dresses, tiny tank tops and oversize, boxy coats. Jacobs clearly had his younger fans in mind, Nicole Richie and Rachel Bilson cheered him on Monday night along with longtime muse Winona Ryder, when he designed these looks, whose mix-and-match sensibility give the wearer a chance to reveal her personality instead of her body.

Max Azria Collection: This line, formerly known as BCBG Max Azria, is undergoing a transformation as the company tries to elevate the image of the runway clothes beyond cute, breezy dresses and flattering pants.

Azria concentrated on knits, which made great casual cashmere coats and borderline bizarre bloomers. He wasn't the only designer to send bloomers down the runway. In fact, the crowd at the Bryant Park tents probably have seen more bloomers and knickers over the first four days of Fashion Week than they've seen in the last four years.

Azria also offered several pieces that had origami details, which were similar enough to hit on the big-bow trend but different enough to stand out. But there's something to be said for simplicity, and the cashmere turtleneck dresses worn with either tweed or cashmere coats were the most sophisticated outfits in the collection.

Betsey Johnson: The sometimes risque, but always playful Johnson was on her best behavior with this collection. She offered cute cocktail dresses that surely will be on the high school dance circuit; skirt suits, with miniskirts, of course; and a taffeta trench coat that could go just about anywhere and be worn by just about any woman.

The trench coat, paired with a gold blouse with ruffles around the neck and a black flounce skirt, was one of the show's best outfits. A latte-colored crocheted dress and a boucle suit with candy-colored dots to break up the black background were also standouts.

The hot pants and bloomers that have been far too prevalent at Fashion Week were also on Johnson's runway, but since she's Betsey Johnson, they belonged. Jill Stuart: Stuart dresses a young crowd, and the Goth look she offered should be right up their alley. Models wore long, black Matrixlike dresses, the best being a satin version with a V neck and high waist.

The runway wasn't all somber, though. A winter white nubby coat and a silver lame all-over pleated gown were winners. Stuart then switched modes and send out a delicate chiffon dress with flutter sleeves in an abstract blue floral print, reports the AP.


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