Dressing Like a Goddess

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Women designing for women was a strong theme on day five of New York Fashion Week. Designers including Monique L'Huillier, Georgina Chapman and runway newcomer Karen Craig of Marchesa trained their eyes on the celebs who wear their clothes (and sit front row at their shows), such as Sarah Michelle Geller and Mischa Barton, with lots of light airy goddess dresses. Or, in the case of Marchesa, several short puff ball dresses in cotton candy colors.

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Then there's Benhaz Serapfour who gently tweaked her vision of neat, tailored dresses with sparkly gold sequins and a few puff ball skirts. The strongest show came from out-of-towners Kate and Laura Mulleavy who brought their chiffon mille-feuille frocks to New York from Pasadena. These two sisters, who have no formal fashion training but a healthy dose of imagination, presented their first runway show, and their vision, although a bit quirky, was strangely captivating. What all these designers have in common is an airy, romantic notion of what women should wear.

None of this fluffy stuff will pass muster with the guy I consider one of New York's great design talents: Narciso Rodriguez. He has a razor-sharp eye for tailoring and an ability to reinvent so much in terms of how clothes are cut. With innovative fabrics Rodriguez can take something so obvious — like a flowing chiffon goddess gown — and make it look totally new. For spring he added color blocking in tomato red or teal and sent out some beautiful breezy coats in cool lacquered fabrics. Derek Lam is also experimenting with the American sportswear vocabulary, drawing inspiration from such sources as Claire McCardell's popover dress or patchwork quilting.