NEW YORK — Fashion's tastemakers and trendsetters started packing up on the eighth and final day of New York Fashion Week Thursday as shows began in London, followed by Milan and Paris. But as the runway previews of fall looks continue in Europe, some early trends have emerged.
The most popular looks to grace the runways over the past eight days include leather, military- and menswear-inspired tailoring and an overall sultriness that finds its allure in the mystery of the woman sheathed in high necklines and leather leggings instead of bare skin or overt sexiness.
Some of the best looks at Ralph Lauren's show on Thursday were borrowed from the boys in a collection plucked from a closet of a British aristocrat. The eveningwear silhouettes were simple, jazzed up with jeweled collars — often with a high neckline.
"There's a real practicality to the season in New York. There's a lot of clothing that women will want to buy and wear," said Ariel Foxman, editor of InStyle magazine. "I'm not seeing big, strong trend messaging. It's not ALL about colorblocking or ALL about military."
But one thing the stylish shopper will need is a new coat — could be a leather trench, an officer's jacket or a tweed blazer — but outerwear was the big story after many cycles of daytime dresses.
"It's interesting that in this mild winter there is so much outerwear," said Foxman. "This idea of what fall and winter should be doesn't go away."
Brandon Holley, editor in chief of Lucky magazine, liked that a single outfit could have the toughness of a military look combined with a prim lace collar.
Attention was also drawn to the face with turtlenecks, which plays into the covered-up sexiness.
"Sexy to me is an attitude or mindset," said designer Prabal Gurung, whose show was a top draw here. "There's nothing sexier than confidence this fall."
Well, there is all the leather, which sometimes was tough looking but otherwise soft and buttery like the best pair of gloves. Holley said she sometimes spots the trends by what the front row is wearing by the end of the week.
"I saw a lot of leather leggings. And then there were leather sleeves or leather pieces," she said. "It's about wearing a lot of leather but not wearing all leather."
Calvin Klein designs have long been known for their razor-sharp lines, but the label's creative director Francisco Costa seems to have a knack for curves, too.
His fall collection presented as one of the last major shows of New York Fashion Week ended things the way the season largely started, offering clothes for a woman who can seduce and charm with intelligence and strength, but without wearing anything too tight or revealing.
Costa, in fact, purposely created a looser hourglass shape for this muse that gives room to move and breathe, sculpting stiff wool fabrics into outfits with rounded jewel necklines and a little extra fabric at the hips. For most women, this is going to work better in coats than dresses, but on the models, it was nice to see the chic, fuller shape shifts.
"Mysterious, sexy and super urban" was how Costa described it just after the show. "The iconography for this is all super modern," he said.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" star Rooney Mara sat in the front row, and the clean, architectural and unadorned style that Costa has crafted as his Calvin Klein signature seems a perfect fit for her. She might be the one to pull off a leather look at the Academy Awards.
The colors, as usual here, were dark and stark, with the only bright moments coming from a few flashes of red and a salmon-colored dress made of a glazed tweed and tulle.
The mixing of fabrics that this crowd has gotten used to seeing over the past few days was done best on a dress that combined gray wool flannel and black shaved shearling. Another standout look was a black-leather, funnel-neck bodice and a winter-white moleskin skirt. Costa also sneaked in white leather panels in the folds of some black pleated skirts.
Ralph Lauren and refinement go together like England and tweed. "I have always loved the heritage and romance of England. My collection for fall 2012 is about a modern glamour inspired by timeless character and refined elegance of an authentic way of living," Lauren said in an email to The Associated Press.Comment on this story
To the music of "Downton Abbey," a popular PBS show about a British manor in the World War I era, models began their parade in riding clothes — plaid jodhpurs, houndstooth coats, Fair Isle sweaters and button-down shirts with contrasting white club collars — and ended in slinky evening gowns with jeweled collars.
There was variety in the silhouettes, with trousers, for example ranging from wide-leg pleated pants to slim cuts, and there were tailored jackets long and short. One of the most striking looks was an animal-print shearling jacket. The new version of the pantsuit was a below-the-hip lean blazer with skinny pants in the same plaid pattern but different scales.
The Ralph Lauren lady — and she is very ladylike even in man-tailored styles — relaxes at home in a black velvet smoking robe with a bright-red shearling collar, but when it's time for an appointment in town she looks like a million bucks in her black cashmere jacket, sequin-front cashmere sweater and high-waist pencil skirt.
Follow AP coverage of New York Fashion Week at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion