NYFW: Reem Acra's Sheer Magic

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows (3)
Reem Acra's fall 2016 presentation

Lace and lingerie details defined the eveningwear collection by this red-carpet favorite.

Sample gowns are shipped out and returned, traveling from a design house to a stylist’s hands to a celebrity’s body and back again — for red-carpet fashion, that’s the circle of life. Backstage before her show Monday evening, Reem Acra noted that some of the yet-to-be-seen dresses had already begun that journey.

“They snuck out and came back,” she explained about a few looks from her fall 2016 collection. “We were praying they would get back in time, because there’s a sequence to the show.” We’ll have to wait to determine whether any of the diaphanous gowns that debuted Monday night will make the cut for Feb. 28's Academy Awards, but Acra’s strong showing, coupled with recent red-carpet trends, makes it a distinct possibility.

An exploration of lingerie details and underpinnings, Acra’s collection nicely balanced ethereal and elegant with ultra-sheer and sexy. “I was thinking about a woman who is a femme fatale and mysterious,” said Acra. Erté, the Art Déco-era artist and fashion designer known for his richly embellished gowns, was an influence, she added. “I wanted to dress a woman in a way that makes certain all eyes are on her. Every single dress is designed to make your jaw drop.” It’s an enticing notion for Acra devotees like Olivia Wilde, Leslie Mann and Suki Waterhouse; on Monday night, the front row featured Mr. Robot actress Portia Doubleday and former Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin.

Acra worked with layering and illusion effects — a black-lace column gown featured an underlay of bordeaux silk, for example, or a strapless gown combined a black-lace bodice with a beaded ombre-effect skirt — to create an idea of bareness without veering into the “naked dress” territory that has pervaded recent red carpets. A few gowns, meanwhile, evoked thoughts of warrior princesses, like the gunmetal corset bodice with a draped charmeuse skirt in steel blue, or the bordeaux lace and chiffon gown with gold and black embroidery that crossed harness-like over the bodice. “I wanted to do dresses with just enough seduction, and just enough glamour,” said Acra.

A few designers known for the red carpet seemingly have scaled back on showing gowns this season, instead concentrating on daywear — Monique Lhuillier and Zac Posen are two examples — causing one to wonder whether they might be holding pieces back for Oscar night consideration.

Acra held nothing back on Monday evening, simply because she doesn’t need to, she says. “There’s never a day when I’m not thinking about [award shows],” Acra reasoned. As for those dresses that made that quick pre-show trip? “You never know, until the moment you see for yourself on the red carpet,” she said with a smile. “Wish me good luck.”