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Ellen Tracy, Cynthia Steffe, Richard Tyler, Nicole Miller show off

April 9, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Some designers dress women who juggle careers and car pooling _ others dress those who pencil in a night at the Oscars.

As Fashion Week forged ahead Tuesday, designers offered different strokes for these different folks. The day starred Ellen Tracy and Cynthia Steffe, an apt double-feature offering wearable sportswear separates with a touch of the trends. Elsewhere on the fashion circuit, Richard Tyler offered impeccably tailored suits and artful gowns to admire, for those who prize high fashion and are equal to the investment.

The $250 million Ellen Tracy company is a commercial powerhouse in distilling the trends, which this season start with a broader-shouldered, haberdashery-inspired pantsuit, perhaps chalk-striped or glen plaid, with a shaped jacket. Military-inspired pea jackets or officers coats wrap up the look, which designers juxtapose with a soft silk shirt for a feminine edge.

``It touches on that masculine-feminine thing,″ says Linda Allard, Ellen Tracy’s head designer. “You can take a pantsuit and crisply tailored jacket, which is masculine, but you give it a twist which is important, like a lace blouse or feminine taffeta shirt with a ruffle.”

Leather, tweed, velvet and knits are the fabrics to usher in the colder months to come. Monochromatic dressing with separates in olive, charcoal, burgundy, beige or black simplifies the look, punctuated by knee-high boots in suede or leather with high heels.

Evening wear delivers the same silhouettes, this time dressed up with beading or the sheen of glittering metallics, and accessorized with those ubiquitous high-heel boots in black satin.

This season Cynthia Steffe, a 39-year-old designer originally from Sioux City, Iowa, branched out from informal presentations and staged her first runway show during Fashion Week.

Steffe charts the course with classic clothes that have unusual fabric treatments, this time in the guise of stretch imitation suede perforated to offer glimpses of skin, and “liquid” rayon jersey gowns with a wet, glowing look. She puts a spin on wide-leg pants, in black velvet cut into snowflake patterns, while mesh lace pants shine with iridescent beads.

“New looking fabric is always my inspiration,” says Steffe, who started as an assistant to Donna Karan and now counts among her clients Brooke Shields, Laura Dern, Nicolette Sheridan and Jenny McCarthy.

Richard Tyler, the Australian-born designer who dresses Tinseltown trendies from Nicole Kidman to Sigourney Weaver, Laura Dern and Jim Carrey, previewed Richard Tyler Couture. It’s a tribute to grand, old-world workmanship, aptly shown off amidst the splendor of his 150-year-old, 40-room Gramercy Park mansion-studio.

If spending $1,400 to $4,000 for a jacket or dress leaves your wallet intact, then Tyler is your man. Drapey velvet gowns with the drama of trains, asymmetrical necklines, cowl necklines or backs, and thigh-high slits were graceful and knock-out sexy all at once. The clothes are made in-house at Tyler’s L.A. headquarters. Last year Nicole Miller acquired a husband, baby and the knack to decorate a new home. Interior design is the theme behind her latest collection, shown Monday night, from the designer who’s popularized playful prints.

This time they hint at wallpaper patterns and kitschy ’50s formica kitchen tops. Simple slip dresses and T-shirt dresses, skinny suits with flared pants, and dresses and gowns with cowl necks are Miller’s silhouettes for the season. Among the gags are faux-wood brushed velveteen pantsuits, and reefer coats in a green tweed that just might have come from a couch. As Miller would say, there’s no place like home.

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