De la Renta opened his show Monday, held as part of New York Fashion Week, with jackets, skirts and a coat in colors that included maize, red, brown and muted green.
The best pieces were an ikat coat worn with a white cotton skirt and yellow cashmere sweater and an ikat skirt decorated with glittery sunbursts and paired with a white chiffon ruffle blouse and a beige sequined boucle jacket.
His spring preview, seen by editors, retailers and front-row guests Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, Serena Williams, Donald Trump and Melania Knauss, featured more casual day clothes than usual, but also included de la Renta's characteristic ruffles and feathers.
A lavender cotton pique bustier paired with a light-green embroidered organza skirt was a youthful black-tie look, while an ivory metallic tweed gown with a jeweled V- neckline was a nice take on the emerging trend of casual elegance.
His silk wrap sweaters, paired with long navy and white georgette skirts, also were standouts.
Anna Sui and Gilles Mendel of J. Mendel also were among the designers who presented their spring previews Monday, as Fashion Week neared its conclusion on Wednesday.
Sui put on a Wild West show, blending her "Rhinestone Cowgirl" outfits with American Indian touches, that culminated with Naomi Campbell in a silver leather Pocahontas dress that drew applause from the audience.
The white jackets covered with colored rhinestones and red-rose appliques and matching white fringe skirts likely won't coordinate well with what most women have in their closets, but several outfits, including a butter-colored chamois ruffled jacket with a white eyelet tiered skirt and an orange plaid taffeta bustier with a coordinating prairie skirt, were wearable — and downright cute.
Not everyone has the occasion to wear a short-sleeve goat jacket with sequin trim in bubble-gum pink, but for those who do, Mendel offered a dainty version that managed to look lightweight.
The more practical white tweed coats would be a stylish topper over either an eyelet top and denim jeans or the hand-painted tulle dresses that Mendel also sent down the runway as he showed what his fur-loving J. Mendel customers might wear during warmer months.
"These clearly are very special pieces and they have a nice cosmopolitan attitude and edge," said Tom Julian, a trend analyst for ad agency Fallon Worldwide and commentator for the fashion Web site Main Floor.
Diane von Furstenberg described her collection of bikinis, Bermuda shorts, camp shirts and signature wrap dresses, which she presented Sunday night, as "the grand tour ... a romantic and intellectual rite of passage."
Cindy Weber Cleary, InStyle's fashion director, said von Furstenberg handled the knee-length shorts trend particularly well. "The long short is a tough one, but she made it look good."
The new Luca Luca spring collection, also previewed Sunday night, featured a strapless rose-embroidered dress in Shantung and a green-and-white cotton pique sundress with green satin seams.
Many of the mostly yellow, light green and mauve dresses had ribbon sashes tied in a bow at the waist, and many more featured embroidery.