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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seeking to clothe working women, designers at New York's Fashion Week looked to 1980s-style power dressing and brought out broad-shouldered jackets, high-necked blouses and careful pleats.
Gone are frilly frocks and girly high-waists and in their place are business-like designs that give professional women plenty of wearable choices.
"It's all about looking polished today," said women's sportswear designer Alvin Valley who along with hundreds of fashion designers showed his fall 2009 collection this week in New York.
The semi-annual Fashion Week ends on Friday.
Valley showed tie-necked blouses, while Tucker and Tadashi Shoji used forgiving fabrics and sensible hemlines.
"There's a longevity to buying a classic piece," said Gaby Basora, founder of the Tucker line of patterned silk blouses sold at Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus.
Basora has narrowed the cut of her blouses and said she brought out such looks as a knee-length wool Jacquard pencil skirt and matching wrap sweater to appeal to career women.
"I introduced knits to have something heavier and comfortable," she said. "The pieces on my line don't have to be worn in a certain way to look good."
Tadashi Shoji used polyester for a number of his cocktail gowns, making them wrinkle-resistant and easy to wear.
"I'm designing for busy women who travel," he said in an interview with Reuters at his New York showroom. "One zip up, and you can wear them."
As designers hope to sell their styles in a recession-pinched consumer market, he added: "We have to have some kind of value, some kind of reason for women to buy."
Shoji's fall dresses were inspired by black roses, with full, layered shoulders.
Designers as diverse as Yigal Azrouel, Charlotte Ronson and BCBG Max Azria showed dresses with broadened shoulders.
Top colors for fall are warm olive, creme brulee and iron, according to the Pantone Color Institute.
"Designers recognize the desire for fundamental basics that speak to current economic conditions," said Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone's executive director, in a statement.
Bobbi Brown, founder of her namesake makeup line, said customers are asking for value.
To look current, she said, "Make sure you purchase something that looks good on you, but is different.
"If you have learned to line your eyes, that's something you can do. I think eyeliner is going to be really big," she said.
But selling to women is a daunting task, as job losses mount and consumers are not spending freely.
"I used to see Fashion Week coverage and maybe got some inspiration for a new interesting piece or two, but now it just kind of depresses me," said Dana Reyngoudt, an affiliate marketing director for NBC Universal.
"I'm certainly making things last longer and resisting new purchases," she said.