REPEATING to add photo numbers to art note. () -

REPEATING to add photo numbers to art note. ()

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c.2013 New York Times News Service

PARIS When designers talk about clothes with "raw emotion," ''desire" and "happiness," as they have since the fall shows began a month ago, you wonder what they mean. Certainly the relaxed shapes at Stella McCartney on Monday or at Celine, Prada and Marc Jacobs come as a happy surprise. They are not only beautiful, they are comfortable as well.

But isn't comfort often associated with food and home? Could the message in the roomier coats, formless sweaters and the exquisitely refined slob appeal of Miuccia Prada's undone tweeds be: Eat, enjoy! And, while you're at it, pass the potatoes.

This is decidedly bad fashion form, a clear demerit, and I'm sure I've missed some higher point about the virtue of an expandable waistband. But it's interesting to me that these are the collections, among others, that the mavens are craving. Phoebe Philo's fluttery skirts at Celine had everyone at her show in a swoon of desire, but I thought it remarkable that Philo had engineered the skirts (and their tops) in knits rayon, silk or wool boucle and without a waistband or a zipper.

You just slip them on, not unlike your sweat pants. (I've been told by a Celine production manager that the skirts, which will retail for about $1,350 in silk or rayon, will retain their shape.) To be sure, Philo and her team that worked with an Italian mill to develop the knit get technical bonus points for resolving the problem of a classically feminine style. In a woven fabric, it would have looked like nothing special, or new. But fashion that is life-enhancing, as much as figure-flattering, is surely something Philo cares about.

So does McCartney. She and her mostly female design team have a completely unfettered approach that keeps her brand distinctive. For fall she shifts the mood away from the feminine prints and sinewy cocktail dresses of recent seasons toward pinstripes and dark flannels, a haberdasher's dream except everything is a little off-kilter.

Lapels are exaggerated or displaced, and some looks have a swag of fabric at the side that kicks out. But despite the appearance of structure, reinforced by the pinstripes, the clothes move dynamically over the body. There's also an amusing sense that McCartney's women have occupied men's tailoring on their terms. If they want a looser fit, then so be it. Also strong were long knock-around dresses in gray knit with deep black lace hems and some roomy silk separates in a scarred wallpaper print. McCartney had lots of color in her prefall line, but she might have given more to the runway.

The latest addition to Giambattista Valli's '60s shifts and cocktail chiffon are chic parkas, mostly in creamy white. And moccasins! Chloe looked plenty comfortable, too, with its many uniformlike capes, duffle coats and jumpers, but it needed to break out of the girls' school. In their explicitness, Riccardo Tisci's clothes for Givenchy can often make people feel uncomfortable, and I like that. We can stand to be discomfited. But in the largest sense, this very soulful collection was about home, returning to the influences of Tisci's career, like religious symbolism and subcultures. But now he has a much firmer grip on the parts. He knows what he wants. And that was coolly, if not brilliantly, conveyed in new versions of his influential sweatshirts, and dark romantic paisleys interrupted by half-undone corsets taken from the torso of a biker's jacket.