(AP) You don't need to be buttoned-up to be the boss.
The styles shown Wednesday as New York Fashion Week neared its end showed women softening their edges but keeping their confidence. At Michael Kors, the models resembled a secretary pool from the 1970s that had since moved into the corner office. Those bow blouses now have a luxury coat and handbag to go with them.
Gone are the minimalist, sharp-edged looks shown on so many runways for fall. There are looser, less restrictive outfits for spring that are more soft and feminine, but still grown up.
"You know it's funny, last fall we had this very sharp, strong, urban collection, which really was for me this reaction to how fast life has gotten," Kors said backstage before his show. "But sometimes I think life is a little too fast. And when we go out to dinner put your phone down, put your BlackBerry down, have a conversation. Write a thank you note, a real one. Walk down the street in the summer when the weather gets warm and wear something that catches the wind."
Oscar de la Renta showed it's possible to be feminine and still feel like you own the room. Vera Wang softened up her look with fabric petals. Gilles Mendel's collection started with an ingnue who grows in confidence and becomes a woman.
"She's strong, she appreciates quality, she loves clothes. I like a celebration of this woman," Mendel said at his J. Mendel show.
With a palette that includes mint and blush tones and softer blouson shapes, spring styles are for a woman who's not afraid to wear a pink dress to the boardroom.
Even the bra tops appearing on so many runways are being paired with palazzo pants, not skinny jeans, making them almost almost office-appropriate.
Kors offered scarf-neck georgette blouses with the bow undone, a whisper light wool georgette pleated skirt in "banker" gray and a crisp white trench to top it off. There was also a sand-colored suede trench. Good thing his muse can make decisions.
A ticking-stripe boyfriend shirt was worn with denim shorts and a wrap made of white fox yes, summer fur with an unexpected stripe lining.
He had some moments that seemed 1970s inspired, with disco studs on slinky dresses with full hemlines and palazzo pants with bra tops.
"The challenge is to have romance for everyday life," Kors said, "and how do you have charm in everyday life?"
A good place to start is smiling models, and Kors had those. Karolina Kurkova, Frankie Rayder and Karen Elson are among the catwalkers who make infrequent runway appearances, but always seem to turn up for Kors.
MARC BY MARC JACOBS
Jacobs has lots of cheerleaders in the fashion world. But in his spring Marc by Marc Jacobs collection, he put some on the runway, too.
At least, that was the feel of some of his clothes for the designer's more moderately priced line, and one he has lots of fun with.
Shiny short satin dresses, rompers and jumpsuits for the girls, and satin football-style jackets for the guys, in bright reds and pinks, made it seem like these kids were headed to a hipster pep rally.
Especially peppy: a deep red satin short suit, paired with a white tank and white sneakers, or a bright pink flame-motif crepe dress over a long white T-shirt.
Jacobs also had fun with tuxedos. A blue tux jacket was paired with tuxedo pants in the same color, but these were funky short tuxedo pants, and they were paired, like all the outfits, with sneakers some low-tops here, and high-tops elsewhere. Great for the prom, preferably a fashionable one.
But there were some dark, stylish suits as well, and lots of loose and slouchy pants for both genders.
There wasn't much on the runway, and that's intended as a compliment. Just take a look at the white wool-silk coat or hammered-satin sheath.
They were, by definition and design, simple, elegant and chic.
Rodriguez is never much of an over-offender of bells, whistles and gimmicks, but he turned out a spring collection of pared-down, well-cut, wearable clothes or they would be if the hemlines were a bit longer.
"I want you to leave here saying, 'I want the clothes,' 'I want those shoes,' 'I love that dress,'" Rodriguez said. "Sometimes fashion is made for fantasy ... but I want to dress women."
Rodriguez didn't bow to the trend of a looser shape; his silhouettes were trim and unfussy, his signature. They weren't constricting or boring, though.
He used the graphic play of black and white to his advantage, opening the show with a shorts suit that had white wool on the shoulders, a black laminated inset on the bodice and black laminated wool shorts.
Follow Samantha Critchell at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion and http://twitter.com/sam_critchell
Jocelyn Noveck and Nicole Evatt contributed to this report.