IS fashion stagnant? Not really, though to gaze at the latest round of runway shows, you might think so. In New York, and in Milan this week, designers embraced the primly corseted silhouettes of the American midcentury with an extravagant fervor. Their outpouring of springtime sheaths, cocktail frocks, camp shirts and circle skirts, all emblems of late 1950s bourgeois chic, seemed worthy at times of Suzy Parker, their collections like outtakes from a Slim Aarons shoot. Ruth La Ferla reports on emerging trends from the shows to the streets.
Ruth La Ferla reports on emerging trends from the shows to the streets.
Fashion’s rekindled infatuation with Modernism, expressed by talents like Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler and Consuelo Castiglioni of Marni, seems familiar in more ways than one. This is not, after all, the first time designers have revisited the prosperous postwar era to conjure a feeling of stability, one expected to resonate with anxious consumers. Reviving a period enriched by material comforts as substantial as a Steuben crystal bowl also represents a long-overdue return to old-fashioned concepts of quality.
Still, on one level, this latest flirtation with the midcentury (it’s reflected, as well, in pop culture fare like “Pan Am” on television and in the forthcoming Marilyn Monroe biographical film “My Week With Marilyn”) can be read as dispiriting evidence of how self-referential fashion has become. On another, however, a Modernist aesthetic can be viewed a catalyst for reinvention, as designers offer breezy, nonliteral interpretations of a bygone age.
In New York, Derek Lam showed a succession of easy, body-skimming dresses inspired, he said, by the airy precision of the Richard Neutra house, a midcentury landmark in Palm Springs, Calif. In Milan, Raf Simons of Jil Sander showed a sheer circle skirt gathered over a camp shirt and shorts, and Giorgio Armani slid a loose peplum top over slashed capris, playing fast and loose with a once-stiff silhouette and giving it a bracing contemporary spin.