February 15, 2013 8:46 am

New York evening wear: bucking the trend

Jenny Packham, Naeem Khan and Ralph Rucci

In the past decade or two, New York has become better known for its minimalist downtown-inspired daywear than for fantastical evening attire better suited to uptown after dark. However at the Lincoln Center earlier this week, a small group of designers attempted to quietly buck the trend.

Take British import – and Duchess of Cambridge favourite – Jenny Packham, who offered a subtle tribute to the cultured, intellectual 17th century ladies of the salonnière. A white strapless beaded gown was paired with a wafer thin ochre bodiced evening coat, fastened at both the neck and waist before fanning out to the floor, while a fitted off-the-shoulder gown with a bejewelled neckline and whippings of soft aquamarine chiffon looked as though it could float off the runway.

By contrast, Naeem Khan’s opulent collection focused on rich colours and texture combinations to a weighty extent. Metallics and monochromes were the totem point of the show, as a gunmetal one shouldered A-liner gave way to a silver-beaded T-shirt bolero with high waisted tuxedo trouser and overskirt, before seguing into a fluid procession of blue and red numbers with Byzantine style embroidery – eye-popping ethnic pieces that looked as though a Bollywood star had gotten lost on her way to the red carpet.

Finally the Ralph Rucci show, attended predominantly by the designer’s core clientele – coiffed and elegant Park Avenue grand dammes with gentlemen walkers – confirmed that Mr Rucci remains the closest homegrown designer New York has to a couturier.

His attention to artisanal techniques was masterful. A series of beautiful, understated day dresses, nipped at the waist with gentle pleating at the knee, in rich caramels, purples and pea greens, were exquisite and fit for a modern day princess, while a warm white bonded cashmere evening coat with standaway bell-shaped sleeves and midnight lining was the epitome of chic.

Still, some of the more decadent evening wear looks – overwhelming in their sheer excess of feathers, sequins and luxe silks – felt rather dated, several others stood out for their clean, feminine silhouettes, particularly the billowing satin ball skirts with simple black jersey tops; the perfect attire for a gilded 21st century Wall Street wife or stylish self-made businesswoman on her way to a black-tie gala.

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