NEW YORK — Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Carolyne Roehm and Adrienne Vittadini brought a bit of sunshine to a soggy city when all three showed spring fashion collections here Wednesday.
Lauren long ago abandoned trendiness in favor of pursuing his personal vision of what clothing ought to be. Now celebrating his 20th year in what has become a $2-billion business, he not only furnishes the wardrobes, but also the homes of those partial to his particular form of classic American style.
The show began with the Roughwear collection, a tribute to Early-American homes on the range. White batiste dresses with white handkerchief embroidery hung away from the body and ended just above the ankle, often topped with hand-knit natural-color wool sweaters or Navajo-patterned sweaters in earthy tones.
A slim, ankle-length skirt in butter-color soft leather was hand painted in a pale Indian motif. Jackets and vests, also in buttery leather, were delicately beaded in the American Indian style. Prairie skirts, cotton shirts, straw hats, suspendered pants, all in pale neutrals or white completed the group.
The designer's Classics collection was in a more sophisticated vein. Inspired by the playing fields and spectator sports of an earlier era, it featured white or navy linen pants, precision shaped to give the look of width without any of the ungainly bulk. These were shown with navy cashmere sweaters or simple white shirts. A group of superb, tan, silk-tweed jodhpurs and pleated trousers were teamed with riding jackets, blouses or sweaters.
Lauren's sophisticated Collection group featured pantsuits with loosely fitted jackets and a featherweight steamer coat that floated above a turtleneck sweater and pleated trousers, all in the same color. Navy evening pantsuits with deep V-necklines were shown with no blouses and long strands of pearls shimmering on the models' bare skin.
Lauren ended the show with a series of white crepe suits, jumpsuits and pantsuits for evening, many with white satin lapels and all dripping with elegance.
Oscar de la Renta expanded his repertoire too this season, with a lively show that included all the impeccably carved dresses and suits for which he is famous. But the crowd applauded most for the designer's newly relaxed and simplified styles.
Pale chemise dresses in soft fabrics ended in kicky pleats at the knee; navy dresses with simple body-hugging bodices were belted above circle skirts that ended low on the calf. Navy cashmere twin sets etched in white topped wide-legged pants or skirts. De la Renta's evening wear included a group of hot pink, yellow and orange bodices floating loosely above voluminous pajama pants in the same hot colors.
For more formal events, he showed a series of sheer black lace dresses with the ease of chemises and the grace of Greek columns.
Carolyne Roehm's show drew the usual social crowd, who by now expected the usual shapes and colors for the season. But in addition to the ubiquitous white, navy and neutrals, Roehm spiced her show with bright lipstick red.
This designer believes in jumpsuits for day into evening and gave them a strong send-off. She also believes in pants with very wide legs. A voluminous red, pyramid coat was worn over a navy tunic with matching wide-leg trousers. A red evening jumpsuit with plunging neckline was worn beneath a swirling red cape. The crowd loved Roehm's long, white evening coat over a columnar strapless navy gown splattered with rhinestones.
Earlier in the day, Adrienne Vittadini offered a classic collection of sportswear, which included this season's popular creamy cableknit sweaters with Bermuda shorts or long pleated skirts. For evening, white pleated trousers went with T-shirts totally covered in black-and-white shiny sequins forming horizontal stripes.
Many dresses and skirts were long and cut on a bias flare. And here too, jumpsuits and jodhpurs showed up in classic neutral shades along with the season's popular, ankle-length safari shirtdresses and Great Gatsby romantic prints.