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Judy Licht

Judy Licht

Posted February 19, 2009 | 08:34 PM (EST)

In Tents: Put on a Happy Dress


No one expects the doom and gloom of the economy to encourage lots of opulence. But, hey, even this year there will be some parties to dress for! And this year's take on toned down evening wear has produced some great looks. For most designers this has meant less sparkle, more style.

Badgely Mischka, best known for their great glitz, produced a pared down collection with nary a sequin in sight. The results of such restraint resulted in a collection with some of the most beautiful clothes this pair has ever created. And their new emphasis on daywear produced lots of elegant looks.

Carmen Marc Valvo, the go-to guy for always-great evening looks also reigned in the fantasy. Carmen parties on, though, with " perfectly wrapped delicious pieces of candy" largely consisting of the season's overall black and white palette, with great little black dresses and some wonderful long looks thrown into the mix. My favorites: a long fishtail evening skirt topped by a crisp white blouse and silk evening trousers paired with a white lace shirt -- to-die-for. These are pieces of eye candy that would tempt anyone to go off their recession diet. And for those with longer legs, and leaner wallets, Milly has a great collection of mini LBD's that should take the 20-30-year-olds anywhere.

Vera Wang's women are also taking a walk on the dark side with a collection inspired by iconic art collector Peggy Guggenheim's life in Venice.This translates into many Fortuny-inspired fabrics.Vera also has fun exploring the juxtaposition of all sorts of fabric, from silk to scuba suit technostuff, almost every piece in black. There's all the artfulness you expect from a Vera collection, but this time out she's sleeker and a lot less self conscious and the results are hauntingly beautiful.

For evening and daytime, jewelry has become the most important accessory. The bigger and bolder, the better. Many designers, like Vera and Donna Karan are doing their own lines. Often they collaborate with big name stars like Robert Lee Morris and Philip Crangi. Front row celebs like Eva Longoria and Blake Liveley have been spotted sporting multiple stone rope necklaces by Margo Morrison. As the fashion gets more pared down, the bling gets bigger. Ditto furs, seen all over almost every runway in modern sleek lines... and lots of feathered fox. For the big statements there are the big boys: Dennis Basso and J. Mendel. But for the little fur jackets and accessories that make big fashion statements there's the ever inventive and much more affordable Adrienne Landau. Her lapin motorcycle jacket alone could make you weep with joy.

For almost all of us in the Fashion Frenzy, the all time best show of the season so far came from the ever ebullient Isaac Mizrahi. He always seems to zero in on the zeitgeist. He has cleverly figured out that fashion can provide the same escapist fare that the movies offered us in the Big Depression. So he called his show "Smile," accompanied by a live band playing even livelier music, and enough colorful, fun fashion to provide a feast for the eyes and solace for the soul.There were tartan plaids, oversized wraps, a pea coat suit and more silver, gold and velvet than you could shake a stick at. All of it over the top but tasteful. One whole section of the show was called "De Nile", which is what we all shared for a few magic minutes this afternoon. He cleverly had names for his pieces, like "xanaxer", "cozy", "plaid therapy" and my personal favorite "blankie." which is what we all need about now. Way to go, Isaac!