NEW YORK (AP) -- The tough girl who has been the muse for designers at New York Fashion Week has one rival who can't be tamed with mere leather, metallic hardware and shoulder pads: Mother Nature. For that, she needs a killer coat, which designers are happy to provide.

Tommy Hilfiger sent out one refined-yet-practica l camel cashmere coat after another at his runway show Thursday.

Proenza Schouler's modern take on the topper: add black ribbed insets, which made the coats both futuristic and flattering.

On other catwalks, the coats have had fur trim, elaborate embroidery or cozy quilting. Oscar de la Renta accessorized one of his designs with gloves and a scarf made of skunk fur — yes, skunk fur.

A coat is a worthwhile investment piece, says InStyle fashion director Cindy Weber Cleary, because you can wear it more often than a dress or sweater. "Some special coats have a craftsmanship that can last forever," she said. "I bought a beautiful brocade coat a few years ago that I will wear forever."

The New York previews of fall fashion finish up Friday, with editors, retailers and stylists moving on to London, then Milan, Italy, and Paris.


Tommy Hilfiger mixed the high — especially soft cashmere coats — with the low — light-denim vintage jeans — for his fall collection, which he says "offers a reprieve from the times by balancing optimism with reality."

He punctuated a chic classic collection with a sand-colored suede-zip coatdress and a taupe crepe-jersey halter dress with a very bare back. There was a similar gown in a slightly lighter stone color — and even more open back — that was sexy in its simplicity.

The sheath dress, a shape almost single-handedly reinvigorated by first lady Michelle Obama, has been a strong silhouette on the runways, and Hilfiger did a great version in navy wool silk that was draped around the middle, making it a little more figure friendly.


Most of the fall styles on the runways this week have embraced the concept of seasonless dressing, and that could mean strapless tops or bare legs. Thankfully, the Proenza Schouler collection, which debuted Wednesday night, focused on fantastic outerwear.

The first dozen or so looks sent out by designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez were strong, but not overly aggressive coats. The silhouettes ranged from bombers to blazers, with a common ground in ribbed black insets. The exposed zippers and double collars fit in with the futuristic dresses, leather walking shorts and low-waisted, scallop-hem skirts underneath the coats.

Colors were simple and wearable, mostly camel, navy and black, and the textures were creative and modern.

The black inset-technique was also used for a series of tight corset dresses. The black offset the slimness of the shape, likely making the dresses flattering even on women who aren't stick-thin models.


Anna Sui took a risk that her fall collection could be dowdier than her young, fun fans want to wear, considering the floral-stripe, rosebud and medallion-border prints.

No need to worry, though. Sui always delivers bouncy, vibrant styles, even if they're borderline kooky.

A chocolate windowpane taffeta jacket, boucle tweed shorts that puff out at the hips and leggings could seem like too much, until you see them pulled together on a tall, slim model.

Was the inspiration Victoriana? The Wild West? A speakeasy? Alpine yodelers? It doesn't really matter. Sui can skillfully combine a short black jacket with blue-and-purple embroidery, a cutout lace-print chiffon tunic and denim zipper pants.

A black velvet coat with patent-leather appliques was her nod to the aggressive trend at her show Wednesday. But taken out of context — perhaps paired with jeans or even the metallic jacquard dress that it covered on the catwalk — it could be one of those pieces that can be worn year after year.