Lisa armstrong's summary of the season
Posted: Sep 09, 2015
If you've read that boho, Victorian Gothic, and Jamie Lee Curtis (I'm not kidding) are all making a comeback this fall, then the season might be filling you with a deep and not unjustified sense of foreboding.
On a runway somewhere, all of those influences made an appearance. But most stylish women don't wake up thinking, I have to channel Barbarella on the school run today, and then I'm switching to Rapunzel. For those who do, and it works for them, mazel tov. This is for those of us who want to look au courant, as opposed to carried away.
So bear with me. I've cracked this. There are only two important trends we need to keep in mind right now: womanly and manly. I know, it sounds almost too reductive. But these two forks will lead us down the path to some fabulous clothes.
The womanly woman is very woman-ly indeed. I'm thinking principally of Burberry's suede-fringed '70s groupies; Prada's pastel Jackie Kennedy–meets–Italian princesses; Chanel's haute bourgeois housewives, with their perfectly judged knee-length skirts and sexily sensible knits; Dior's space-age cadettes; Valentino's and Erdem's romantically inclined and much embellished medieval muses; and Dolce & Gabbana's stupendously glamorous Italian mamas (believe me, Dolce's mama has never leaned in—she's too busy telling her domestic staff what to do). I'm thinking too of Gucci's screwy but stylish Margot Tenenbaum doppelgäng ers, with their pleated leather kilts and faux-innocent"Did I really forget to put on my bra?" sheer blouses.
And then there were Riccardo Tisci's "Victorian chola girls" at Givenchy. Chola girls, for the uninitiated—okay, I admit it, that was me—is a term sometimes used to describe those first- and second-generation Mexican-American women whose advanced degrees in lip liner, baggy pants, and elaborate hair and eye makeup have made for some of the most ritualized and striking girl-gang looks of our time. Tisci took all that and chucked in some High Gothic lace and corseted tailoring. Because that's what you do when you're creative.
We're not done: Michael Kors's deliciously classic camelistas will make you want to never dress like a Marxist student again, assuming you ever did. (Miuccia Prada actually was a Marxist student and is said to have favored Yves Saint Laurent. But that was Italy. Incidentally, if you haven't met a camelista, you're in for a honey-colored treat: There isn't a beigy-gold-tone piece of cashmere or lace this tawny-limbed goddess hasn't loved, worn, and mastered—even her Maltipoo is champagne-hued.)
photo: plus size evening dresses
Did you notice what happened during that list of fall inspirations? We went from 1475 to 1975, taking in about 20 different religious, ethnic, and political persuasions. And I haven't even mentioned the '80s vibes at Loewe or the '90s revival at Christopher Kane.
As I was saying, the only way to make sense of all this is to define it all as supremely feminine. Which it is, though not necessarilyin a uniform way. At Alexander McQueen, the femininity was ruffled and hourglass, worn with bruised makeup and whacked-out frizzy hair. This wom an will get the party thumping by dancing on the table and bring it to a close by starting a fight.
Prada's women are intensely saccharine, drenched in pastels and paste diamonds. But since it's Prada, it's a safe bet that there's more to our heroine than those sugar-almond hits. She's sweet, with an aftertaste of lime and tequila. She's probably a spy. She's certainly wearing a deviously advanced pant—one that's straight until it gets to the ankle, where it kicks out just enough to make you think that it's over for all the skinny drainpipes in your closet.
At Burberry, the femininity was filmy, wafty chiffon—think Stevie Nicks, or Kate Hudson inAlmost Famous. How does that work in winter? Surprisingly well. Chiffon is amazingly accommodating—beneath gilets, knitted tanks, and the season's fabulous, gorgeous, ridiculously spoiling coats (we'll return to those in a few paragraphs). It won't even crease. You can roll it into a teeny sausage (a major leap of faith, I grant you, with something that cost $2,000, but trust me), and it emerges as unrumpled as a Hollywood A-lister's forehead.
Chiffon also floats good-naturedly over panty hose. (Stop the presses: In a shocking turn of events, designers gave up pretending that bare legs are a viable, woman-friendly option for Chicago in February and got real with the opaques. All hail Ralph Lauren for making ribbed, marled hose sexy.)
It's not just legs that will be well insulated. Designers have rediscovered proper winterproof clothes—A-line wool midiskirts, tailored knits, high necklines, waistcoats over silk blouses—and the plushest coats. Knee-high-and-above boots will be everywhere, with stacked heels or stompy flat ones.
That brings us to the masculine side of things: the decadent pantsuits at Marc Jacobs, the curvy Bar jackets and matching three-quarter-length tweed pants at Dior, and the elegantly contoured suits at Stella McCartney. There were a lot of pantsuits. There were even a few three-piece suits. There were also a lot of masculine colors—black, navy, charcoal, chocolate. … This could finally be the year that the pantsuit and its less uptight cousin, the mismatched pantsuit, really take off, probably in black or navy—and on some red carpets (and a few sludgy office ones), it already has.
For those days when pantsuits seem a bit formal, there are plenty of ways to play the androgynous hand. The glossy dungarees at Hermès took something so phenomen ally utilitarian and kind of Orange Is the New Black and turned it into edgy cocktailwear. Céline's plunging V-neck wool jumpsuit did something similar to scrubs. These options will, like those kicky Prada pants, convince you to move out of your comfort zone when it comes to pants.
The masculinity didn't end there. All the oversize coats (Victoria Beckham, to name but one purveyor), reborn loafers (most notably Gucci's, where they come as slides with fur trim), holster bags (Céline, Marni), and leather jerkin-style jackets could be filed with man brogues, studded biker boots, and tractor soles.
The shameless "borrowing" from the male closet goes on. Long may it continue: These are the comfort pieces and the workhorses of our lives. But if I've made it sound like a binary choice this winter—dress either like a '70s mafioso or a moll—it's anything but. More often than not, we'll want to mix and match with combinations of masculine and feminine: a decorative blouse with high-waisted mannish pants or an embroidered boho Fendi bag with a classic Vuitton suit. That could be the most workable, modern option of all.
Now that we've got that clear, here's a checklist of standout pieces this fall—one that includes Gucci's bow-tied silk blouses. Alessandro Michele, the house's hot new designer, made just about everything there a major object of lust. Assuming you don't spend all your dough at Gucci, I direct you toward Chloé's guardsman coats; Prada's pea jackets, pins, and polished glacé-leather opera-length gloves; Erdem's lace dresses; Hermès's slim almond-toe knee boots; Chanel's sparkling tweed skirts and low-heeled slingbacks; Valentino's leather-trimmed black tulle Empire-line dresses and maxiskirts; and Michael Kors's wondrous blond and tweed coats.
If you have any change left, get on the waiting list for Gucci's chain-strap interlocking-G bag in high-shine hibiscus leather. It holds hardly anything, but don't worry—you'll have spent all your cash. This is a season full of beautiful classics. Make the most of them.
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