Cohost Ali Wentworth, wife of George Stephanopoulos and frequent Oprah contributor, introduced the event along with General Manager of Neiman Marcus, Martha Slade.
Downing and Rubenstein commented on the nine top trends for spring while a bevy of couture-clad females walked the hot-pink carpet.
“2008 sucked, let’s face it,” said Downing, laughing.
“If you put yourself together better and go out with a happy attitude, it’s infectious,” said Rubenstein, expressing hope that even when dressing on a budget, women manifest a cheerful demeanor in their clothing choices.
Guests, sitting shoulder to shoulder in two rows, sipped Champagne or sparkling water and nibbled Peking duck, Peking-and-portobello-mushroom cones, and sweet treats such as chocolate lollipop truffles, butterfly-adorned petite fours, and of course, the ubiquitous miniature cupcake, with sweet pink frosting.
Gift bags included a hot pink copy of InStyle Parties, a $10-off coupon for the hair salon and spa PR at Partners, and Bobbi Brown makeup.
According to Downing and Rubenstein, the keys to “Dressing to the Nines” for Spring 2009 are:
• One-shoulder shapes
• Snakeskin accessories
• Statement shoes
• Colorful cardigans
• Bold jewelry
Highlights of the show included a pale pink Calvin Klein dress with black straps that highlighted the shoulders. The outfit featured a jersey fabric that would look flattering on almost anyone. “If a woman says she doesn’t like her shoulders, she’s lying,” said Rubenstein, commenting on the outfit. The dress, like most others shown, was sensual without giving anything away, reflecting past seasons that embraced a ladylike appeal.
Other outfits, featuring figure-hugging shapes by names such as Roland Mouret, showcased curves and feminine shapes. The hourglass figure is finally being acknowledged—perhaps even celebrated—by mainstream designers, said both Downing and Rubenstein, a fact for which most women will rejoice.
Evening wear, especially in light of the inauguration, made a strong showing, with special attention paid to strapless and one-shoulder shapes. A jeweled floral gown by Norman Ambrose was a strong audience favorite. Another pink gown showcased this season’s ruffled bodice, while yet another featured a gathered ruffle on the back.
Graphic trends, mostly in black and white, were wearable and flattering on models and accented with bright pops of color for a spring twist.
Cardigans, a major trend for spring, were present on nearly every outfit. A simple floral shirtdress with a matching green cardigan with an interior floral lining evoked a ’50s style that was both cheery and appropriate for Washington.
Instead of purchasing a black sheath, Rubenstein said, choose one like the aforementioned floral. “It’s not about buying basics, it’s about buying pieces that you love,” he said—especially when you’re spending a significant amount on each piece.
Two types of outfits fell flat with the audience members: those featuring dressy shorts, which most women sanctioned as being unwearable, especially in Washington, as well as two caftan numbers, which looked more Elizabeth Taylor-esque than 2009. An ensemble featuring dressy evening palazzo pants held more appeal, although it appeared overstyled with a jeweled neckline, necklaces, and statement earrings.
A skirt-and-top combination by Chanel missed the mark: What was otherwise a striking black-and-white combination featured decidedly tacky fringed pearl epaulets with miniature Chanel logos on the end of each strand.
Accessories also made a strong showing, with nearly every outfit featuring costume jewels. Big earrings are the season’s “it” accessory, with multiple necklace strands a strong second. Although this season lacks an “it” bag, large carryall totes appeared to be the primary choice of most designers. Simple, slicked back hair highlighted the statement accessories.
Shoes, of course, were mostly high heeled, and strappy cage sandals were a runway highlight. Heels add pizzazz to any outfit, said Rubenstein, and absolutely must be worn with dressy shorts, added Downing.
For a full recap of the show, see the photo slideshow, including video of several key looks from the show.
Look for several upcoming posts about spring style, including issues of Frugal Fashionista showcasing how to achieve spring styles for a fraction of the runway costs.