They may conjure up an image of a tropical paradise, but resort collections may work harder than the rest of the closet.

The clothes need to be all things to all people: a holiday party frock here, a comfortable traveling T-shirt dress there. The first pieces arrive on racks in November and last through February.

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Consumers don't usually "shop a wardrobe" then, but they often end up buying more separate pieces than they do in the big markets of spring and fall, when there might be some head-to-toe outfits, says designer Diane von Furstenberg. The impulse shopping adds up, she says, making resort very important for retailers.

"It's for everybody," she says. "It's for holiday parties, for Aspen, for Vermont, for St. Bart's and Miami, and everywhere else, even if you are staying home in New York."

Judging from some of the trends, however, you might call it "continuation": colorblocking, playful prints and rich textures, especially leather and lace, all popular this summer and headed into fall, had their place in several collections previewed in New York over the past few weeks.