Here’s the thing about droopy, flower-printed silk chiffon: You either subject it to a brutal, wacky deconstruction, like the Rodarte ladies did, or you skip the absurdist humor and play it absolutely straight, as Ralph Lauren opts for at his show on the last day (yippee!) of New York Fashion Week. Though Ralph pairs these updated versions of thirties tea gowns with, among other garments, those puffed-sleeved Edwardian-redux toppers he has been cranking out since the flood, and it all looks very pretty on the models (but what doesn’t?), here is what I want to know: Doesn’t an unadulterated mid-calf floral silk, no matter how lovingly rendered, veer maybe just a little too close to the choppy sartorial waters of HSN?
Far better are Ralph’s beaded flapper dresses, which he is inspired to layer over black turtlenecks with lacy sleeves. He’s not the only one longing for bathtub gin and bull markets: Anna Sui sends a column of Zelda Fitzgerald pretenders gamboling down the runway; at Elisa Palomino, showing for the first time this week, the parade of exquisite beaded, embroidered, and otherwise embellished frocks is accompanied, for some reason, by a similarly clad woman singing jazz standards in what I think is Chinese.
Even Isaac Mizrahi has a brief spangled fantasy, though he tamps down the gloss with a fur-trimmed hooded leather parka. That jacket comes in handy when white stuff starts drifting from the rafters at the end of the show — a theatrical fillip that would be slightly more charming if disgusting remnants of the real thing were not still despoiling the sidewalks of New York.
I do a brief informal survey before the Paris68 show and am appalled, and frankly shocked, that of the twenty or so people I query, only one has any idea what Paris68 refers to. Though the stabs at answers: “The year the designer was born?” “Something to do with YSL?” “Maybe Paris Hilton?” are certainly creative, they are, of course, extremely far from the mark. In any case, this homage to May 1968 features a number of curious dresses rendered in lovely silky fabric that devolve into a diaper bottom, which would prove madly binding when you bend down to rip a cobblestone out of the sidewalk and hurl it at les flics. (Not to mention that I would not like to be waiting outside the ladies’ room while someone was getting in and out of this contraption.)
If I seem to be in an unusually cranky mood, even for me, maybe it is because I am forced to view the Calvin Klein collection through my fingers, since a migraine-inducing klieg light is shining directly into my eyes during the entire show, the better to facilitate the filming of the proceedings. When I can stand to steal a glance, I see glimpses of lovely black coats and felted-wool white dresses, austere enough for a Shaker — albeit one who lives on Park Avenue. So horrendous is the glare that I feel any minute a member of the fashion police will bark at me: “Why are you such a sourpuss? How can you be so mean about so many collections? Aren’t you guilty of a whole lot of crimes of fashion yourself?”