By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Breathtaking gowns reigned at New York Fashion Week on Tuesday.
From the gossamer sheaths of Badgley Mischka to the jewel-encrusted drapes of Jenny Packham, designers dazzled the runways with elegance and glamor in classic lines fit for a princess.
Dripping with Swarovski crystals, the body-hugging designs in Packham's Spring 2013 collection were inspired by the movie molls who ran with the Las Vegas Rat Pack in the 1960s, the designer said.
They radiated self-confidence with bold patterns of checkerboard or splattered polka dots and luscious solids in butter or mimosa hues.
Not a single one lacked sparkle -- each entirely awash in glitter or showing a spoonful of sugar at the cuff or collar.
While Packham said "broads" like Lauren Bacall and Angie Dickinson were her muse, the designer, a favorite of Kate Middleton, showed elegant, regal creations.
"They exuded a spunky, bold femininity. They didn't chase the pack, they ran with it," the British designer said in a statement released from the runway at the semi-annual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Designer Marc Jacobs took his own trip back to the 1960s with his British Mod-influenced women's collection leaning heavily on bold geometric prints. The first looks featured thick black-and-white vertical stripes on A-line coats and dresses, while in later looks, the stripes became more colorful, or became thicker, or began looping around in eye-crossing Op-Art whorls.
Several of the outfits, most paired with dainty handbags, seemed to reimagine how a chic secretary might have dressed on Madison Avenue during "Mad Men" days if it had been acceptable to expose one's midriff in the workplace at the time.
The New York-based trend-setter showed micro-mini skirts and dresses that barely reached the thighs and used a shiny, vinyl-esque material in pantsuits and in long, wildly flapping dresses with slits up to the waist in a style known as carwash.
The sparkle and striking patterns were turned down a notch when Badgley Mischka took the runway. Ethereal chiffon and organza sleeves, capes and overshirts in muted colors such as blush, smoke and nude were grounded by leather and boucle shorts and tweed jackets in equally whispered tones.
And then there was the parade of gowns, worn by models coiffed like nymphs emerging from the forest. The design team of Mark Badgley and James Mischka showed fabrics winking with jewels, woven with hologram-like threads and gathered into flower shapes -- one big enough to serve as a bustier on an ivory gown.
Color, big and brilliant, claimed the spotlight at J. Crew, which presented its line of bright, sporty spring clothes in neon lemon and limes, hot pinks and fiery tangerine.
Expect to see embroidered shimmery skinny capris, full flowery skirts and simple silky shirtdresses on the racks at the popular retailer, which made its third appearance at Fashion Week, once dominated by high-end designers and extravagantly expensive looks.
The shoes at J. Crew followed in the style of the high-heeled, pointed suede pink pumps by the retailer that first lady Michelle Obama chose to wear for her speech at the Democratic National Convention last week.
For spring, J.Crew will have shoes in a similar style, some with added ankle straps, in the same radiant hues as its clothing.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Richard Chang)