A Twenties time warp seems to have trapped the New York designers this season. Hollywood wardrobes have been resurrected and thrift shops ransacked for stock to copy.
Bob Mackie, the designer who put Cher in the infamous black cobweb dress for the Oscars in 1986, launched his new evening collection on Sunday. These were glamorous clothes - column dresses with Art Deco detailing and beading - for society women to wear to cocktail parties and formal social engagements. Prices go up to $3,000 (about pounds 2,000).
The show was held at the candlelit Laura Bell's supper club and was like a scene from a Forties movie. The clothes were pure showbiz glamour with a bit of Las Vegas thrown in. The Californian designer's roots are in Hollywood where he worked at Paramount and then for television as the costume designer for The Judy Garland Show in the Sixties and The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour.
Mackie's clients include Cher and Madonna, newscaster Carol Burnett, actress Carol Channing - and the drag queen Ru Paul who turned up for the show dressed as a man in a sombre suit and no hint of mascara.
Anna Sui, the wacky Downtown designer, showed an autumn/winter 96 collection on Sunday evening with references to both the Sixties and the Twenties with cloche hats, Ultrasuede coats with tie belts, distressed leather jackets worn with sensible tweed, and the sort of clothes that would look like secondhand tat to anyone but the initiated.
After the thrift stores and flea markets, Sui turned to what she called "eccentric English" and cast her eye over the clothes of Vivienne Westwood. Windowpane checks were made up into trouser suits, Miss Marple skirts and jackets that showed just how little originality the New York designers have.
Even the evening wear - beaded flapper dresses with handkerchief hems - was lifted from Twenties originals. And why buy Anna Sui when you can still buy antique dresses with all their fine craftmanship at a fraction of the price of Sui's?