Over the past few seasons, the major hurdle to being on top of the current fashions was simply being rich enough. With the start of the big-name New York collections today, the designers added a new wrinkle -- this season you can't be too rich or too thin.
"As I look at these collections, I keep asking myself if just drinking water isn't too fattening for these clothes," said Rita Tawil of Arlington, who buys for shops in the Middle East.
Even Geoffrey Beene, who has always made comfort his credo for clothes, has held to a very narrow line for fall. His dresses swathe the body, eased across the shoulder for comfort and cut short -- or, if long, with a slit -- so the wearer can move easily. Some dresses fit like cozy sweaters. Others show off a very skinny figure in silk with a back bared under lace.
Over these form-fitting dresses or sweaters and skinny skirts, Beene showed easy-fitting coats and jackets, including a new version of the short jacket in a bubble shape.
His waist-length jacket or shorter bolero requires a figure with not an extra ounce at the middle. The longer jackets and coats, however, can be worn by anyone. In fact, the single-button coats in alpaca, which can be worn belted or not, may well turn out to be the best around this season.
Where Beene surely has no peers is in his evening jackets, which in every way are like investments in rare jewelry. Like other designers this season, Beene has dipped into upholstery fabrics. But unlike the others, he has gone to the top of the line, using the extraordinary brocades of Tassinari & Chatel of Lyons, France, the company that has been making the brocades used in the restoration of the palace of Versailles.
One of the silk brocades he used cost $350 a yard. "I didn't use a lot of it," laughed Beene, who placed it in the center of a short bolero that combined several fabrics, shown over a simple, slim, long dress.
While he kept his jacket shapes simple to show off the extraordinary fabrics, Beene gave himself a new challenge this year -- making the clothes identical on the inside and out, lining a brocade jacket with brocade. His Seventh Avenue workrooms have carried it off with the same kind of artisanship one usually finds only in Europe. In one jacket theArt Deco pattern in black and gold on the outside was repeated in black and silver on the inside.
For designer Louis dell'Olio there was a new challenge, too -- this was the first time he was going it alone for the Anne Klein collection, without Donna Karan as his partner.
"I can't believe I am doing this -- going to the Anne Klein show to be in the audience," Karan said as she entered the Parsons School of Design this afternoon. Karan will show her own collection next week.
Dell'Olio, meanwhile, proved he could handle the Klein collection just fine on his own.
There were all those things in the collection that the Anne Klein customer has always loved -- the blazers, the tailored blouses, the big coats, the trousers, even the sarong skirt.
And there were enough new elements that the Anne Klein aficionado will be happy to acquire, particularly the sweaters -- such as one in a pony-skin pattern textured with fluffy angora, and a diagonal knit that looked like chenille -- and some big coats with button-out contrast linings that overlapped onto the collars.
Like Beene, dell'Olio likes the short jacket for fall, a bonus for the woman who has kept her figure slim. For her, too, he has put wide rib cuffs on the tops of his narrow skirts that give the effect of knit cummerbunds.
For the women who discovered the menswear or androgynous look last fall, dell'Olio has included plenty of pin stripes, man-tailored jackets and trousers, and big coats to round out that look for another season.
He repeated those same shapes for evening, but dipped them in glitter, giving the familiar menswear look a welcome feminine twist. His grand finale was a black and gold pin stripe-sequined cardigan jacket paired with black sequined trousers.
Donna Karan was among the first on her feet to cheer dell'Olio at the show's end. It was clear the Anne Klein collection was on a steady course.