My, oh my, but won’t it be a serious fall?

That is if the designers who showed at the bi-annual seasonal runway shows in New York have their way. Many sent down the catwalk layered, covered-up, high-buttoned styles in somber hues and conservative patterns (preppy plaids, hunting houndstooth and the oh-so-cheeky herringbone!).

At Marc Jacobs, the show was delayed about two hours because of a late shipment of shoes: chunky heels that ended in a stiletto point. You need a shoe like that to balance the clothing, which was post-apocalyptic and full of dour below-the-knee skirts and deconstructed trousers.

The Max Azria Collection (they dropped the BCBG during Fashion Week) was also rather drab in the color palette department: black, gray, brown, navy. The sweaters were nubby and oversized, layering the body like a boiled-wool cocoon.

Doo.Ri by designer Doori Chung managed to put a little fabulousness and – dare we whisper it – sex appeal into glen plaid blouson tops and check suits with ruff effects around the neck. When is the last time you heard neck ruff and sexy in the same sentence?

It was conservative, but sexy equestrian chic for Charles Nolan. Models strutted around in chesterfield and hunting jackets, riding boots and high-belted skirted suits (with buckles that Nolan himself termed "Pilgrim").

But all designers aren’t downers. Carolina Herrera’s straight skirts with 3/4-sleeve jackets and high-collars were sexy enough, but a little tricked-up. Drawstrings were threaded through slits in the fabric so that the wearer could adjust the silhouette. The plaid skirts had appliques. A deceptively simple tweed dress had sheared mink sleeves.

That seems like an awful lot of work for the wearer. Fashion is really going to need a vacation by the time the spring shows roll around in September.

© 2006 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.