It’s that time of year. Fall 2005 Fashion Week in New York, which officially kicks off today in the “Tent” of Bryant Park with designer Kenneth Cole’s collection. During the course of the week, celebrities, critics and spectators will ooh and ahh over eye-defying creations that cost more than your entire Yale education, plus maybe law school.

Fortunately, however, the look for spring 2005 –which previewed in New York last fall — seems surprisingly imitable even for the average, self-conscious Yalie. It is a look preoccupied with mainly one thing: being pretty. 169 designers dallied over dainty, cheerful things, like Oscar de la Renta’s outrageously festive, strawberry-pink colored taffeta skirt. Girlish gingham, skirts with petticoats, sundresses, and rolled boxy shorts dominated the scene. Colors resembled the insides of a Crayola box with a heavy emphasis on delicate pink, powdery blue, and all white. Everything was, in the words of one fashion critic, “Fun, Floral, and Fringe.”

We can do fun, floral, and fringe just as well as the next supermodel! One of the best ways to achieve this is through skirts. This spring, skirts take center stage, but the emphasis is on flirtatious femininity, not blatant sexuality. (Put down that mini!) Invest in medium-length skirts with lovely patterns and in rich, flowing fabrics like silk and satin that will give your movements the envious grace of a ballerina.

One of the inherent dangers of fashion is that you’ll be type-cast by what you wear. An easy way to avoid this is to choose clothing and accessories that are a harmonious amalgamation of what you want to be: the girl and the woman.

This spring’s trends make it easy to unleash both. Pure white suggests a nostalgia for the innocence of girlhood and yet, at the same time, a celebration of the coming-of-age. But, beware, you don’t actually want to look like a bride, so try to avoid white from head to toe. A white lace dress belted in black or a white suit worn with gray (or, for the more daring, gold-leather) stilettos creates a vibe of potent sophistication and demureness yet also nonchalance.

In the eyes of Uyen Le ’06, an aspiring designer and founding president of Ycouture, Yale’s very own student fashion design group, the color white embodies a kind of history, power, and allure that few colors have.

“First, it is historically a color of the privileged, where it indicates their status by isolating itself over the daily grunge of the working class. But, beyond the social ladder, in a more poetic interpretation, white is also symbolic of purity and innocence. Dressing in pristine white deems an individual untouchable by the ordinary and their social environment,” Le said.

So, sometimes we want to feel untouchable, and sometimes we want to feel touchable. Designers seemed to understand this inherent schism in our psychology. Putting white and modesty aside, they joyfully flaunted the concept of “Americans having fun at the beach” by having sun-kissed models. Narciso Rodriguez made his escape to Brazil with a collection inspired by surfers.

Don’t be afraid to go his route and don an aqua bandeau top and scuba shorts. Slouchy, rolled-up shorts are very in vogue this season, perhaps because they add a degree of credibility and realism to an otherwise fantastic scene of big cotton candy hair and bronze, mile-high legs.

Indeed, for many, fashion is synonymous with this kind of elaborate fantasy but sometimes to its detriment. What turns quite a few people off about these big designers’ creations is that they are, in the words of Alisa Beer ’07, “bizarre and out-of-place even on the runway.”

Beer went to the same high school as Zac Posen, one of several highly-talented new designers rejuvenating the traditional fashion world with their young blood and proving their mettle in competition with more established predecessors. Beer describes Posen’s clothes as “almost always wearable” although she does admit that some designs are not for her.

“Some of his dresses are too chiffony for me — too much like a layer cake or else too sheer,” Beer said.

Beer’s objection reflects an essential weakness of the Spring 2005 collection. It is “too pretty.” And, the trade-off is diminished function, practicality, and substance. After all, something has got to suffer in the face of such undiluted loveliness.

Be careful, then, as you are shopping, for the things that make you ooh and ahh aren’t necessarily the things you want to introduce to your wardrobe.

Minimalism is refreshing and provocative. Perhaps this is a theme that will be revived in the Fall 2005 Fashion Week. The modern woman needs to be pretty, but she also needs to occupy a deeper, more mysterious, place in the American imagination. Otherwise, she risks becoming what Cathy Horyn, fashion critic for the New York Times, described as “a beautiful but empty-headed woman, a creature who turns out to have nothing to say.”

For us diehard Yalies, if there is any cardinal sin in fashion, it is betraying our intellect.