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Haute Topic

In tough times, high fashion fights back with frippery.

Author Sarah Horne Photography Seth Wenig / AP

SHORT AND SWEET Proenza Schouler showed colorful cocktail numbers for Spring 2010.

AS THE LIGHTS DIMMED before the Michael Kors Spring 2010 show in Manhattan this fall, tastemakers, trendcasters and the behind-the-scenes folks whose livelihoods depend on the rest of us shopping were all perched anxiously on petite chairs. Then there was Vogue editor Anna Wintour, impervious behind her bug-eyed glasses. Across the aisle, wearing a sharp suit, sat silver-haired Michael Douglas, in town for the filming of Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.

This September, more than ever before, fashion industry observers drew in their breath, wondering precisely what alchemy of cut and color might just inspire Americans to reach into their wallets. Design duo Proenza Schouler wagered on cheeky electric-green cocktail frocks, while the venerated Oscar de la Renta proffered major gowns in orange and magenta with just a hint of flamenco flair. What they weren’t doing was anything demure or muted. Together, the top American designers seemed to be embracing insouciance, banking on escapism. Silver paillette disco dress, anyone?

Back at the Kors show, the lights came up, blindingly bright, and the models in minxy minidresses (black with see-through plastic cutouts) stalked toward the photographers to the strains of Lady Gaga’s “The Fame.” For a moment, the room felt like it was moving to the lyrics: “All we care about is runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles… We got a taste for champagne and endless fortune.”

In the front row, Wintour cracked a faint smile. Gordon Gekko threw her a wink. Fashion was back.

SARAH HORNE thinks that everyone should own exactly one piece of disco ball–inspired clothing.

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