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Originally published Friday, June 22, 2012 at 8:01 AM

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For here or there, `resort' clothes are wearable

They may conjure up an image of a tropical paradise, but resort collections shown by designers may work harder than the rest of the closet.

AP Fashion Writer

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NEW YORK —

They may conjure up an image of a tropical paradise, but resort collections shown by designers may work harder than the rest of the closet.

The clothes need to be all things to all people: a holiday party frock here, a comfortable traveling T-shirt dress there. The first pieces arrive on racks in November and last through February.

Consumers don't usually "shop a wardrobe" then, but they often end up buying more separate pieces than they do in the big markets of spring and fall, when there might be some head-to-toe outfits, says designer Diane von Furstenberg.

The impulse shopping adds up, she says, making resort very important for retailers.

"It's for everybody," she says. "It's for holiday parties, for Aspen, for Vermont, for St. Bart's and Miami, and everywhere else, even if you are staying home in New York."

Resort has to be clothes for "real people," agrees Carolina Herrera, who says she also likes the more informal showroom presentations where she gets feedback from retailers, stylists and editors versus the fashion week runway shows that require some over-the-top drama.

"I love the idea of resort," Herrera says. "You have to find the details for each dress that make sense."

"Balance" is what drives Thakoon Panichugal's resort looks, he says, aiming to mix wearable with fanciful.

Von Furstenberg's creative director Yvan Mispelaere says the word "resort" itself might be a little misleading. "That makes it sound like it's just for the lucky ones."

He mostly refers to it as "transition," he explains.

Judging from some of the trends, however, you might call it "continuation": colorblocking, playful prints and rich textures, especially leather and lace, all popular this summer and headed into fall, had their place in several collections previewed in New York over the past few weeks.

CAROLINA HERRERA

Carolina Herrera says she likes to do a little experimenting in her resort collection, especially with prints. "Fashion is sometimes starved for color and amusement, but not here."

She created a fanciful print featuring abstract lovers and another one with bunnies. A lace print on gazar is a twist on a classic. "I love the printed lace. I am a bit tired of lace. This is light and graphic - it's a new idea."

The print is featured on a skirt with a ruffled hem and a halter gown with a plunging V down the back.

Prints are a way for a designer to distinguish herself, says Herrera, who had a much-buzzed about poodle print in her last collection. "A print is something you don't have to share with everyone else."

Some cocktail and daytime dresses are done in a very ladylike below-the-knee tea length. The whimsy and delicate touches keep them youthful and not dowdy.

A banded red-and-orange dress is very graphic and wearable, and the olive-colored safari shirtdress could be that wardrobe workhorse.

Gowns, of course, are a Herrera signature, and she spun a winner with a steely blue-colored chiffon gown with a metallic "wheat" - not gold - embroidery on sheer tulle that covered the neckline and center of the bodice for a peek-a-boo effect.

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG

The theme of this collection designed collaboratively by Diane von Furstenberg and Yvan Mispelaere is the American roadtrip. "It's funny for two Europeans," says Mispelaere.

There are nods to Manhattan, Las Vegas and Memphis, Tenn., a place he's never been - although he says von Furstenberg promises to take him.

An all-over printed sequin skirt suit in lime green, white and black with a similarly patterned silk blouse underneath has the day-to-night vibe that von Furstenberg is famous for, and a robe-style romper in that same shade of green is the update of the label's wrap silhouette.

A blue blouse has a white racing stripe down the sleeves and a black collar and cuffs, and even bolder, brighter color combinations include a green top with a sheer-front keyhole detail paired with a flirty hot pink skirt, and a blush-colored asymmetrical top with a yellow flounce peplum and asymmetric black skorts with a razor-cut ruffle.

Prints are always important here and are well represented: a planetary print with sherbet colors, exaggerated leaf prints and more delicate watercolor drops.

Accessories, a growing category for von Furstenberg, are worth noting, too, especially the new 440 bag, with an upright, almost lunch-tote shape, and the patchwork leather shoe-booties, with their peep toes and higher ankle shaft.

The goal was for every single look - from the dresses to the shoes - to be wearable with bare legs or black tights, Mispelaere says.

CALVIN KLEIN

True to form, the Calvin Klein resort collection is built on clean, architectural lines, but creative director Francisco Costa strategically inserts softer shapes - and the occasional sexy cutout.

The overall shape is long and languid, and colors, textures and prints often draw inspiration from nature, especially pythons and pebbles from the desert, Costa explains in his notes. Whites, greens and tans are prominent.

A sleeveless vest-style dress with oversized pockets and a belted dropped waist in a luxe sandalwood-color soft nubuck seems like it could be the traveling uniform of the jet set. A stretchy snakeskin long-sleeve shirt and matching wide-band skirt hug the body and have the same elongating effect but seems more user friendly to a broader audience.

A series of sleek jumpers with slit-front necklines and hemlines are worn with bandeau tops underneath, which looks great on models, although the flashes of bare skin might make them hard to wear to the office.

For evening, though, there's no excuse to shy away from delicate halter dresses with that same open patch, although Costa does offer more modest versions with sheer overlays, too. The finale outfit, a sheer ivory T-shirt over an ivory silk skirt and bandeau, is destined for a tropical beach wedding.

GUCCI

OK, for this European luxury house, the idea of resort - or cruise, as it is officially called by the house - is, in fact, all about getting away from anything mundane. "An alluring escape to the island of Capri. A wind-swept style and exotic allusions," creative director Frida Giannini says in her notes.

She takes the famous Flora pattern from the 1960s and `70s and blows it up into chic slim trousers and a short sheath with black backgrounds, and more flowy daytime dresses with a white background. There's even a leather jacket embroidered with the signature floral design.

She was aiming for a little Marisa Berenson mixed with "contemporary intuition to wear color and print."

Several pantsuits have slim lapels and trousers that hang on the hips and flare at the bottom, giving another nod to another era.

To sit at the hotel bar for evening cocktails, there are colorful mini shifts with jeweled collars and long column gowns. The candy colors make them just a bit more casual than the fabrics and embellishments would suggest. It's vacation, after all.

THAKOON

This season is the icing on the cake for Thakoon Panichugal, who creates a frothy, upbeat, pretty collection with floral touches and shades of sherbet on T-shirt dresses, blouson tops, dressy shorts and jumpsuits. Jumpsuits, Panichugal says, do particularly well with his customer.

He thought of cupcakes a lot while designing, he says. "I only eat the cupcake cake, but it's the frosting that really inspired me and draws me in."

For a moment, it seems, he thought of a wedding cake: He uses for several pieces a white jacquard fabric. It looks best in a halter-neck sheath.

Maybe that's what led him to the little lingerie touches, too, including a sexy blush-colored silk tank, a peek-a-boo printed slip dress and flirty, polka-dot tap pants.

There is a lot of mixing of textures, even some Neoprene and leather, but the mood stays light. His two lines, the signature and the more contemporary label called Addition, are offered as complements to one another so the "angry leopard" track short could pair with the coral basketweave blazer.

LOUIS VUITTON

The Louis Vuitton resort collection harnesses the power of suggestion. There is very little skin shown, yet one just imagines a sultry, confident woman in the layered looks that come with the long silhouette.

Nothing clung too much to the body, either, so there is an alluring ease that comes along with hints of the 1970s. In a mini runway presentation, models teetered in chunky, super-high platform shoes in culottes, pajama tops, dropped-waist dresses and sequin stripe rugbys. There are short swing coats and soft, belted blazers.

Straw visor hats add a sporty vibe.

Some of the color combinations are a little unconventional - just as you'd expect here: lavender with brown, pink with brown, blue with brown. Come to think of it, there is a lot of brown.

A one-shouldered dress in colorblocked navy, brown and white sequins is the final look.

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