NEW YORK — Designers have their work cut out for them for the spring 2010 season. Which is why they're laying on the charm -- love songs on the soundtrack and cutesy play suits on the runway, along with one-piece swimsuits that bring to mind classic pinups, even a majorette or two. (Well, sort of. At Alexander Wang, tinsel mini-dresses mixed it up with sportswear inspired by vintage football uniforms).
So far, it's working. The collections are off to a strong start, with lots of upbeat (optimism is the new black!), wearable clothes.
Colors are cheerful. Victoria Beckham opened her terrific dress collection with a pleated double crepe dress in a surprisingly delightful shade of cerise, before moving on to an artfully folded airbrushed and painted crepe chemise dress that resembled a Mark Rothko canvas and a chrome yellow corset dress with the patina of wet paint.
Prints are making a comeback. "Project Runway" vet Christian Siriano showed sexy silk dresses with flounce details in both oceanic and volcanic prints, along with "bull-horn" shaped heels for his Payless shoe line. (Killer heels aren't going away any time soon.)
And florals are being re-imagined in a funkier way. At DKNY, a boyfriend jacket came in an "urban garden" sequin pattern and pegged silk lounge pants in a peony print.
Happy days are here again was the message at Jason Wu's spring show. And why not? There are few American designers who have skyrocketed to fame as quickly as Wu, a relative unknown until First Lady Michelle Obama chose his one-shouldered, frothy, feathery white gown to wear to the inaugural balls this year.
His spring collection had the same lightness, starting with a pantsuit in silk tweed as soft as mohair and a shade that brought to mind a fuzzy peach. Another suit, in soft navy silk tweed with drainpipe trousers and a hoodie for a jacket, had a similar ease.
Wu has an optimistic view of the social season too, offering a bevy of charming one-shouldered cocktail frocks, their tulip shapes and short lengths hinting at the '80s trend that is otherwise waning. One of the best had a blue ostrich feather sash, another a cellophane-like overlay.
There was a wave of nostalgia running through Derek Lam's collection of reinvigorated American classics. "Patriotic, optimistic, free-for-all. A carnival, carnal, a little bit tawdry," the designer wrote in his show notes. That meant a red wrap skirt with gold toggle fastenings, a gray, sleeveless, shooting-star print blouse and the boat shoe redone as a wedge sandal. The models were all curves in a great-looking pair of ivory crepe trousers with a corset waist, and a dolman-sleeved navy crepe one-piece perfect for a romp on the sand. The short dress in a blurred floral print was pretty cute too.
Wang must have had Americana on his mind when he designed his visionary collection of modern separates inspired, it would seem, by a collegiate football game circa 1955. I love to seem him rethink the simplest of pieces -- low-slung khaki pants worked with sweat shirt fabric, a white poplin cap sleeve shirt with crisscross detailing in back, the sexiest army green twill skirt with shirt sleeves wrapping around the waist, and a backless green space dye cardigan.
It's all about the body for Wang and figuring out how to reveal it in new and interesting ways. No wonder he's fashion's new darling.