Resort-ing to elegance and shimmer

Donna Karan, Donna Karan International, resort, resort-wear, fashion, design, style, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, cocktail dress, suit, elegant, pencil skirt, trouser, leather, organza, silk, ball gown, Zoë Zellers

Fashion designers have increasingly been turning their eyes toward resort season, less as an awkward in-between buying time for consumers and more as a significant opportunity to solidify spring trends. On the runways, Donna Karan International has shown a chic and refreshing collection inspired by the elements.

While her fun pink party-girl dresses are best reserved for an after-hours gathering, working women will find themselves warming up to Donna Karan’s key multifunctional, transitional wardrobe staples, which hint at brighter days ahead.

Donna knows her core audience. Her resort presentation is on point in that it offers a romantic side while remaining about dressing the urban woman.

With the exception of stunning, airy, pale-pink and hot-white cocktail dresses and full skirts, this is not a collection meant for lounging in St. Barts. Yet therein lies part of Donna’s success with her target audience. An ensemble like the plunging, crystal-encrusted blazer and casual-cool pants offers the ultimate change of pace from a heavy, earthy winter wardrobe. Still, it is so not spring. In that sense, this is a practical (yes, sparkles have become practical) resort-wear outfit that’s well worth the splurge.

One of the collection’s praiseworthy efforts is its continued commitment to the color gray, a major must-have trend carried through the fall season. The elegant, serious gray is a good idea this resort season, too. Christian Dior had it right when he noted in “The Little Dictionary of Fashion” that “It is the most convenient color, too, for people who live half in town and half in the country, because, with different accessories, a gray suit or coat may be equally suitable for both.”

A bejeweled neckline on a delicate gray sleeveless blouse is unexpected and, paired with a black pencil skirt ($895) or smart, skinny leather pants ($1,595), would shine in a crowded room. Meanwhile, Donna focuses on the need for function during the workday and after-hours, showing a great gray tweed pencil skirt with a matching jacket that avoids being conservative with a sexy, plunging V and offers edginess with a fringed trim.

Donna pays attention to taffeta and sparkles in her heavily beaded black evening cocktail dresses and isn’t afraid of sheer, either. You would think it would be hard to pull off her sleek, white floor-length dresses like the Superfine Jersey Gown with pretty chain halter straps ($3,495). But remember, Donna has always been a master draper and these are worth trying on to add a little trend to your closet. The season’s white pleated cocktail dress takes a cue from the ancient Greeks and would be a good investment piece. It looks equally crisp and light with strappy heels and a sleek ponytail or, later this year, with summer sandals, gold bangles and a low bun.

Some of the season’s stars are Donna’s elegant all-black and all-white silk suits, which are anything but simple. The collection includes a white tailcoat with an oversize crystal closure shown with slim white silk pants that feel very different and more mature than the slouchy white trousers that became one of Céline’s hits last year.

A black suit jacket’s one-side shoulder ruffles are interesting and quite eye-catching. A stylish businesswoman or a fashion-forward pop star would look posh in this paired with a knockout platform and special Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. or Mignon Faget earrings. The gutsy girl can pull back her hair and go for a silk suit ensemble in Donna’s saturated magenta-meets-red. It’s an absolute killer party statement.

A floor-length, architecture-inspired satin gown in this same color with a sexy strapless neckline and oversized back bow – accessorized with white diamond bracelets – would surely get noticed at a gala event in these upcoming months. Donna Karan also gets ruched organza just right in her voluminous black Plissa strapless ball gown with a full A-line skirt and fitted bodice ($6,800).
Donna respects her roots with a clean eye, favoring a strong black-and-white contrast, which works and evokes transition in a stylish tone. The resort collection sees breezy, high-waisted double-jersey black pants ($895) harmonizing a standout bright, white lapel-less blazer with three-quarter-length sleeves and a cutaway back ($1,895). Here, inventiveness meets utter elegance in pieces that would flatter various women.

The bold buyer who wears a small size should turn her attention toward Donna Karan’s ultra-slim black blazer, which offers edge-appeal with sharp, layered, front folds, strong shoulders and an oversize tri-crystal closure.

Donna Karan’s 2013 resort collection is available now to pre-order at select department stores, including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom at The Westchester in White Plains, Saks Fifth Avenue in Greenwich and The Stamford Town Center, or online at,, and
– Zoë Zellers

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