Marc Jacobs closed the curtain on New York Fashion Week with a dance hall theme that confirmed some trends for spring and created new ones with a mix of cellophane effects, Western-style shapes and drop-waist dresses.
With a line of models draped over chairs Thursday night, Jacobs mined different eras to define the new look for next season.
The 1920s, '60s and what might pass for blase in the year 2050 were represented in baby blue, grass green, wine red and luminescent white. Some models wore clear ankle boots and others walked in modernesque turbans. There were beads, athletic influences and tons of tiered skirts.
Stephanie Solomon, vice president for fashion direction at Bloomingdale's, saw Paris in the Jazz Age _ fast-forwarded to today. "It was the speakeasy for the summer of 2011," she said, "but when you looked at the innovative fabrics and how he styled it, it was very, very modern."
Jacobs, the industry darling, usually shows earlier during the New York previews, before editors, retailers and stylists flee for Europe. But he changed his slot this go-around to allow more time for deliveries slowed by Hurricane Irene.
Joe Zee, Elle's creative director, could get used to this. "To end the week like this is how it should be. It's like he's the director of this great production," he said. "I love that it's not a literal interpretation of any one thing. It's a potpourri that works."
Other collections that debuted Thursday included Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, also very influential runways, and they, too, solidified some must-haves. Put a great blazer or jacket at the top of the list, said Solomon.
"I'm not talking standard black blazers _ it's anything but," she said.
Lauren featured "Great Gatsby" wide-legged suits _ some paired with men's ties that looked more Tom than Daisy _ and Klein's Francisco Costa showed long silk and jacquard coats, worn like robes over slip dresses. Imagine the muse of a wartime spy, dashing out in the dark.
Another classic American brand, Bill Blass, preserved the past and forged a future in the hands of Jeffrey Monteiro. He was chosen almost two years ago to revive the line after years of tough going for the company. He showed familiar, impeccably tailored navy coats and blazers, but underneath a navy twill peacoat was a bandeau top.
The intersection of sportswear and elegance happens on the Lauren runway. It gives him a place on the American fashion scene like no one else.
There was a feminine hint of ruffle in a floral print, optic white menswear suits, luxe liquidlike fabrics and Deco beading were all part of Lauren's reimagining of '20s style.
Lauren showed great skill in balancing simple shapes the hardest thing to do well _ with glamorous details: an ostrich feather scarf here or beaded bag there.
The ivory skirt suit with a hammered-satin tank top, accessorized with an embroidered linen clutch bag and ivory sandal is a lot harder to pull off than something dripping with decoration.
"He's so renowned for desirable, memorable and modern clothes," said Glenda Bailey, editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar.
Virginia Smith, fashion market director at Vogue, added: "It's sort of Ralph Lauren's world and we're living in it."
She especially liked the gowns _ the knockout floral lame and the off-the-shoulder goddess style _ among them. "They were a tour de force."
Olivia Wilde seemed to show particular interest in the robin's egg-blue georgette dress with beading on one hip. How fast can the Lauren team get that gown on the plane for Sunday's Emmy Awards?
Considered one of the most influential collections on the runways here, duo Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough seemed one step ahead with more trim, tailored shapes.
But they also confirmed emerging trends with optimistic flashes of yellow and aqua, clean shapes and a lot of prints.
The first model wore a buttoned-up jacket and tasteful, though super-short, shorts in dark brown with a tiger print.
From there, the designers moved down the spectrum from crocheted raffia, with a slight sheen and geometric details that oozed crafty chic, to very modern tech-crepe fabrics that hug the body. Both showed that Hernandez and McCollough continue to experiment with texture as much as silhouette.
Khan could have outfitted an entire slate of Oscar nominees with his runway offerings.
It was a glamorous array of sequined, beaded and ruffled gowns with a stylistic focus on Spain.
Khan got a standing ovation after closing with one of his grander creations, a ballgown in silver with a fringed bodice and an extravagantly full skirt.
The Indian-born Khan has famously designed gowns for Michelle Obama at not one but two state dinners.
"It was stunning," actress Mischa Barton told him after the show.
Colors were not confined to any particular scheme; there were bright oranges and yellows, reds and blues, roses and mauves, grays and burgundies, blacks and whites. (And, of course, gold and silver.)
It was an unusually feminine display for Costa.
Dresses had sheer trim on the bustline, or in some cases a sheer top. Hemlines were just a touch asymmetrical.
In a switch from other designer collections previewed over eight days, these were longer in the front and shorter in the back. Fluted and pleated skirts evoked a '40s feel, and some of the long silk and jacquard coats were worn like robes, adding to the lingerie look. Imagine the muse of a wartime spy, dashing out in the dark.
"It's a very exciting season because, you know, I think what I wanted to convey with the collection it was really feminine clothes that was very relevant for today ... no tricks just really quality in the making and interesting cuts," said Costa backstage.
The collection also included wide-leg pants, worn with a shawl-collared vest, and culottes that showed off spiked stiletto heels.
Other interesting accents? A shirt tail hem on a black racerback tank, trailing gracefully behind the wearer, and a black organza top with an accordion pleat back. And while a red long-sleeved gown with an accordion pleat skirt seemed a little stodgy, the navy-and-white satin halter gown with a dot georgette skirt looked fresh and chic.
Nodding to the trend of big color, Monteiro included not only bright red _ a signature color of Blass, who left the company in 1999 and died in 2002 _ but also a bold yellow. A sequined gown of that color was a surprising, almost jarring burst of brightness.
In a backstage interview, Monteiro made it clear he was honoring the past. "We have the archive, and that's always the inspiration," he said. "Classic American sportswear. Sophisticated and easy."
What do ancient Egypt and the hourglass silhouettes of the early 20th century have in common?
Nothing, except that they both inspired Tahari's glammed-up version of his famous daytime wear that made use of longer lengths, lots of gold _ think Cleopatra _ and sexier accents like harem pants, transparent tops and feathered vests.
Tahari's show started with an appealing pantsuit, the jacket coming down to the knees and creating a slender, flattering silhouette.
Soon the more glamorous elements appeared: Fluttering, transparent blouses, a bright gold metallic skirt, a fur vest. A long vest-jacket topped a crinkled chiffon skirt, a more whimsical approach to Tahari's much-admired daywear.
For night, a gold metal tank dress seemed to hit the spot for many of Tahari's fans.
To build on artful, architectural and expensive wardrobes, Rucci offered several modern looks with sheer plastic panels. Sometimes it was an inset around the bodice, sometimes more subtle on the cuff of a jacket or hem of a skirt.
And there was a white neoprene coat, paired with a faille straight skirt, like you've never seen neoprene before.
He used silver python for a banded skirt that was worn with a sheer chiffon button-front blouse. For evening there was black caviar-beaded blouson dress _ using the tiniest beads one could imagine _ that had little fringe at the hemline.
The clothes are grand but not showy _ and Rucci received a standing ovation for his effort.
AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck in New York contributed to this report.
Samantha Critchell tweets fashion at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion