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Hemlines are short and swingy for spring

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NEW YORK (AFX) - For those who still measure fashion seasons in hemlines, the news from New York Fashion Week for spring 2007 is short and swingy. 

Designers are hiking up hems for otherwise office-friendly suits, while also showing beachy shifts and swing dresses that seem rooted in early '60s style. Fashion Week hit its midway point Tuesday, with shows by Michael Kors, Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren, among others, still to come.

Bill Blass: Designer Michael Vollbracht struggled to attract a full house as stylists, editors and buyers kept their distance after the company took a few missteps during the transition after Blass' death in 2002.

What a difference a year makes: Vollbracht presented an innovative and modern fall collection, and the company put Janet Jackson in many of the pieces over the past few months.

The relationship with Jackson continued Tuesday as the pop singer sat in the front row for Vollbracht's spring show, along with Sigourney Weaver and most of the industry's big-name insiders.

Vollbracht presented another strong line, falling somewhere between ladylike and sophisticated -- perfect for the socialites who have filled their closets with Bill Blass designs over the years -- and also modern and sexy.

The show opened with a beige jersey skirt suit that had movement but also the trappings of tradition. Generally, Vollbracht's skirts were short and the jackets were long.

Jersey dresses and gowns also were strong, especially a brown Grecian-style dress with a shirred waist. It was worn with silver flat sandals, part of Blass' new shoe collection. The shoe that people will remember, though, was a patent leather sandal with a metallic heel.

Two woven metallic dresses, both short, were outstanding -- one had a blue top, open back and swing-style skirt in gold, silver and blue; the other was all gold and fitted much closer to the body. There weren't many pants in the collection, but that seems to be a trend for spring.

Monique Lhuillier: Los Angeles-based Monique Lhuillier had the gold, linen, sand colors and bubble hems that have emerged as trends for spring, but she made everything a little trimmer and a little more tailored. The result: wearable, sophisticated clothes.

"This season's woman is strong and confident," Lhuillier said in her notes for Tuesday's show. For daytime, that means a modified military jacket with an embellished waist and slim trousers or a cropped, double-breasted swing coat with a pencil skirt. For evening, the designer created airy chiffon gowns with "illusion necklines" -- crystals and other beads on sheer fabrics that create the look of a necklace.

Lhuillier first made a name for herself in bridal gowns, so the dressiest items were her best, including a violet-and-white floral chiffon V-neck gown that breezed down the runway despite multiple layers of fabric. A beige linen gown with a pouffy tufted bottom still had shape, thanks to a pleated bodice and an embellished waist, proving that clothes don't have to be too tight or too loose to make a lasting impression. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be

Copyright 2006 AFX News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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