Personally, I prefer the second one. I have had my set of bad experience with gradients not behaving on all browsers and/or causing a lot of lag for some users. And a plain color has almost never failed me.
Can easily go with fashion forums, very stylish. Great work John. Only the gaps between navigation and footer seems a little off, is there are specific reason for the gap & are planning on putting something there?
Not really my kind of thing. I like curves, and colour.
But I like the background in no. 1 and that's a lovely grey-blue.
The rest is too like office furniture for me. Sort of utilitarian. I'm sure lotsa people love it as I'm by no means a typical user.
I have completed a new style called Blaze that can be viewed here. One thing of note, I have completed a custom userbar feature in the framework that enables one to move the visitor tab links from the navigation to the moderator bar section easily through style property settings. This frees up room on the navigation for additional tabs. This feature will be standard to the framework on all skins.