Lynn Yaeger: Lim’s Hospital-Gown Bows; Sui Lives on Kensington High Street

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From left: Anna Sui, 3.1 phillip lim, and Milly. Photo: Imaxtree

“Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” Bob Dylan is intoning over the loudspeakers as the first looks emerge at the 3.1 phillip lim show. I beg your pardon, Bobby, but I know exactly what is happening here — I am sitting at what feels like the 50 millionth show of Fashion Week, watching flirty dance dresses and still more satin shorts swish down the runway. Not that Lim doesn’t have any ideas of his own — I love the sweaters and little dresses that are affixed up the back with loosely tied bows, at least until I remember what they remind me of: hospital gowns.

At Milly, the run-of-show notes (of these unintentionally hilarious, barely literate efforts, a whole book could be written) describe what is to come as punk-meets-prep, but in fact, it strikes me as neither. What I see are dozens of ersatz Marni jackets, those short, collarless, buttonless cropped-sleeve affairs, frequently enhanced with a smattering of beads or spangles, that have infected runways for the past few seasons as virulently as the H1N1 virus.

The good news is, Peter Som is having an installation instead of a show! The bad news is, it’s down at Milk Studios, a wonderful space unfortunately located next to the High Line where a lot of shows are being held and which presents — especially now that corporations have cut back on free cars — rather a challenge to get to. Perhaps taken by the snoods in the models’ hair, their vintage-y sunglasses, and the thirties floral chiffon shirtwaists and high-waisted shorts, a colleague comments, "This is what fashion would have looked like if World War II never happened.” Well, maybe, if all those jitterbuggers combined glittery orange striped sweaters with turquoise mille fleur shorts as Som manages without apparent effort.

Because I am practically in the Hudson River anyway, I decide to walk up to 22nd Street, where Timo.Weiland, a line I have never heard of, is having a presentation. There’s something vaguely Thom Browne–ish about the boyish suits on display (I mean the classic Thom, not the guy who showed a white tutu over metallic trousers earlier this week), along with ideas that are much better than they sound, including shorts (yet again) with what look like a pleated bib down the front; visible support hose on girls who won’t be needing these things for another 60 years; and a huge garland of satin loops that the designers insist are a good idea for people of either gender.

The theme of this season’s Anna Sui show is the circus, but it doesn’t really matter. For Sui, the caravan has stopped permanently sometime in the mid-sixties, a world that consists of the Biba department store on Kensington High Street, the Who’s first album, and a lot of fashion trends that looked fresh and new when Mary Quant, Tuffin & Foale, Barbara Hulanicki, and other renegades introduced them 40-odd years ago. Still, plenty of bright young things, for whom the British Invasion might as well refer rather to the Battle of Bunker Hill than to the arrival of the Kinks and Herman’s Hermits, will no doubt enjoy wearing these cheerful items again. At least the gift bag seems promising: a big lavender box printed with butterflies, which everyone assumes contains a bottle of perfume, or a powder puff, or something, anything, but which turns out to be disturbingly empty. “It’s a memory box!” says the woman next to me brightly, prompting me to wonder what we’ll really remember a week from now, a month from now, about the spring 2010 collections.