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New York Fashion Week Fall 2014: Can these looks work for you?

Karyn D. Collins
Correspondent
467598727GH00105_Nicole_Mil
Frazer Harrison - Getty Images
Nicole Miller’s designs demonstrate the “Warrior Woman” theme at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2014.

Ladies, it’s time to put on your armor and head out into the world to do battle.

“Toughen up” has been the mantra coming from designers showing during New York Fashion Week for a couple of seasons now. For fall 2014, designers not only continued to push the tough talk, but in many instances used warriors – from samurais to anime fighters – as inspiration.

The shows, which officially began Feb. 6 at venues around New York City, wrap up Thursday, as yet another snowstorm sweeps up the East Coast.

To be certain, the severe winter weather served as one key source of inspiration for the new collections.

Some highlights:

• Outerwear, for example, was especially strong across the board this season. Knitwear also was a strong focus for designers, with many turning out versions of cozy-looking oversized pullovers shown over tailored shirts with printed pants or wispy slip dresses.

• And the profusion of silky-looking printed pants added to a work-from-home inspired trend: pajama chic. Except these are looks you definitely want to show on the street.

• Designers’ flirtation with fur also seemed in full flower. Indeed, there there was so much fur – real and faux – mostly in trims and as shrugs, that the catwalks roared.

Warrior Woman

The overwhelming theme this time around was the Warrior Woman. She is girded in leather and other dark fabrics, some of which are embroidered or treated so they glisten like studs or even armor. In some cases she wears her armor with beading or embellishments that resemble shields.

The samurai warrior influence could even be seen in the cut of pants – the use of obi-like belts and loose-fitting trousers and gauchos or culottes.

See it once and one might think this was just one designer. But it was a theme repeated throughout the week from a wide swath of designers including Nicole Miller, Carmen Marc Valvo, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Jason Wu. Even designers like Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang went for more of an urban edge.

Yes, Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang.

Also, black, grey and pewter were punctuated with bursts of explosive reds and oranges. Watch out!

Soft, romantic

This is not to say that prettiness has disappeared. Indeed, the other big trend of the season is florals – dark and romantic, often used for wispy, flyaway dresses and skirts. A number of designers also went deliberately soft and muted with colors, turning to tones like pale blue to evoke a winter’s night.

Bold, graphic patterns also dominated the landscape, whether it was dark plaids given a glazed effect, or pop art zigzags or swirls.

As noted, designers took a page from designer Marc Jacobs’ pajama pants moment last year, sending versions of pajama pants down the runway.

Off the runway

North Carolina stylists who have been keeping an eye on the goings-on in New York said there’s plenty of good news to be found.

“I think the Southern woman is still learning how to do edgy, so some of the things I saw – like the Herve Leger bandage dresses with the cutouts – may be too edgy for us still,” said Charlotte-based stylist Erica Hanks. “But is the Southern woman ready for leather? I say yes, yes and yes.”

Hanks not only attended several shows in New York, but dressed some of her clients to attend the shows as well. “I think leather has already become a staple for many women. It’s something that can give you that edge without being overboard or without being too intimidating.”

Find balance

Raleigh-based stylist Mary Michele Nidiffer of StyleFinderID (formerly One Chic Mama), said the key for regular women is to understand that runway fashion, by design, is usually a bit extreme. The key, she said, is to find a balance between what works for an individual and the trends being shown on the runway.

“The tough look is not for everybody,” Nidiffer said. “It’s a challenging look. It definitely has that bigger-city edge to it. But there are ways to make it look more classic. I think there are elements that can translate to how a genteel Southern woman likes to dress.

“I could see the leather in pants or a jacket, or pants with leather inserts. You pair it with something softer and you’ll have a whole different feel,” she said.

Softer trends

Nidiffer and others said two of the softer trends they especially liked were florals and the roomy, sometimes oversized knits.

Stylist Catherine Horgan of MyStyleFiles in Charlotte said she also liked the layering seen on the runways.

“I kind of like the whole playing with proportions,” Horgan said. “It’s not going to be for everybody, but if it’s done right, I think it’s very doable for your average woman.”

Horgan added she was also a big fan of the reds and oranges popping up to punctuate otherwise dark-hued collections.

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