Calvin Klein came out on the runway to a cheering crowd after his show today wearing a navy blazer, white shirt, tie and flannel trousers. What the designer himself wore was hardly ever important. Now it is. "I used to wear jeans and sweatshirts, but now I wear suits and ties all the time," Klein said. "It's a movement in my life, a feeling I have about dressing up."
That same feeling of dressing up with more tailored, sophisticated clothes runs through several of the fall collections that opened on Seventh Avenue this week, the last leg of a marathon trek that over the last month has taken retailers and press to Milan, Paris and London. Klein, who only a year ago was showing oversized, hard-to-wear, unconstructed and layered clothes, has done the more refined look better than most.
Klein clearly likes the long and lean silhouette that is showing up all over this week. A long slim skirt is an essential ingredient--Klein cuts off his skirt hems about mid-leg, with the model always in high-heeled boots, even when wearing his draped satin or velvet dresses for evening. His suit jackets are often more detailed than in the past, with larger collars, stand-up necklines and elasticized waistlines.
His suits are shown with dressy blouses--satin with gabardine suits, lace with pin-stripe wool. The blouses are dark, black or navy, which heightens the sophisticated look. He likes the cape collar on blouses and coats--even on his suedes--which gives the silhouette width at the top and therefore balance. When a black wool crepe fitted jacket and long sarong skirt came down the runway, Bloomingdale's Kal Ruttenstein applauded and called it "the perfect dinner suit."
If Klein's generous use of black throughout the collection makes everything more dressy, he makes the point again with his accessories. He featured high cone-heel boots, hats by Patricia Underwood (from Chevy Chase), alligator belts with gold buckles and leather gloves. There's not a shawl in the whole collection.
Perry Ellis, who showed his collection Tuesday, thinks some of his customers are ready to gussie up a bit, too. For them he has done nipped waistline peplum suits, with knee-length skinny skirts, and high-heeled pumps, a look with origins in the 1950s. He calls these his "glamor suits" and showed some with fur trims for laughs, even one fur trim on the ankle.
For those Ellis customers who are still happy in long full skirts and easy tops, there were wonderful rich mixes of tweed and plaids, often with a low-waisted silhouette achieved by a low belt on a jacket or full coat. Ellis also did not neglect the woman who has just discovered his long and skinny look now in the stores; for her there are long, skinny sweater dresses for day, in black for evening. In between, he did some amusing things: clown suits of a sort that young women may love (if they can afford them) and ringmaster jackets with long tails.
"For those who used to say, 'Comfort is all,' Ellis has told us we were wrong," said Geraldine Stutz, head of Henri Bendel. She called Ellis "our most original and prophetic designer," and thinks Ellis' peplum suits will be as influential as his dimple-sleeved jacket that several years back started all the full-sleeve styles. As for the high heels? "If you look right, your feet don't hurt," she said.