Eric Wilson's Front Row Diary: This Season Especially, Designers Show Clothes for Real Women

donna karan
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InStyle’s fashion news director Eric Wilson offers more real-time Fashion Week insights on Twitter and Instagram. See all of his show reviews here.

New York Fashion Week is in the midst of a deep freeze, and while I’m not convinced that Sunday or Monday marked the city’s coldest days in decades, it would be nice if people started acting like it. Yet they linger outside entrances, walk three astride on narrow sidewalks, pose for photographers who recklessly crab crawl backwards and sideways, and relentlessly hug the people they saw not 10 minutes earlier as if they had just returned from a tour of duty.

Oh, it’s not that bad, really.

But increasingly, there is a disconnect between the fashion shows taking place on runways around the city and the fashion shows taking place outside them on the street. I wonder if all those flashy style stars might be headed for a funk, because designers, this season especially, are showing straight-up clothes for real women. Donna Karan’s fall collection of black this and black that? Well, no photographer would hurtle across oncoming traffic to take your picture, but your friends and colleagues would compliment your style. Karan came out strong, moving on from her spring street graffiti extravaganza to a style that was far more professional and focused for the big city.

Her backdrop of city lights was well suited for the streamlined clothes, the furry jackets that were belted over pants and the ice-creamy shearling coats that were straightforward in their usefulness against things like, um, cold weather (pictured, top).

naomi campbell
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Zac Posen had a real fashion moment Monday night. Rihanna and Katie Holmes got the crowd excited at his big show in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Station, where there was a palpable sense that the comeback kid is now getting down to serious business. The clothes were both more fluid and playful than his signature slinky bias cut dresses, though those were still there, thank goodness. A sparkling green crystal dress and the extravagant ruby glitter dress that Naomi Campbell wore to close the show, Glinda the Good Witch Gone Bad (pictured, above), would have read as camp had not Posen provided the steady march of clean, wearable suits and dresses that balanced the full picture (pictured, below). You have to hear this quote from Posen’s press notes:

“I sought ways to shock classical silhouettes into the present day by adopting an opposites attract philosophy,” he says. “My muses were as disparate as Grace Kelly and Chaka Khan.”

zac posen
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For something a little more outrageous, there was Tommy Hilfiger’s football-themed collection that scored a touchdown for sports enthusiasts. And while I can’t say with certainty that I understood the message of the Rag & Bone show, I did enjoy the clothes—a strange combination of slip dresses and lingerie worn with heavy overcoats, as if the models had run out of a burning building in the middle of the night (pictured, below). During the show, images of the runway, the audience, and the backstage were projected along the walls, giving the impression of a surveillance state. That’s about as honest as you can get at Fashion Week, where everyone is being watched all the time.

rag & bone
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