After logging thousands of miles over the last month, going from one fashion capital to the next, one runway extravaganza to another, it’s time for a reality check. Alexander McQueen’s Atlantis fantasy and Chanel’s high-class hoedown were something to look at -- and blog and Tweet about. But come spring, what will they mean to a woman’s wardrobe? And will they mean enough that she will buck the retail trend and actually spend on clothes?
That’s the challenge for the store buyers who hit the designer showrooms after everyone else has gone home, for photographers who spin visual fantasies to sell clothes in advertising campaigns and glossy magazines spreads, and for editors and stylists who will ultimately try to teach women how to wear what’s new when it hits the racks in four months’ time.
Here are five of the top trends straight from the New York and European runways, and how they might actually trickle down to you.
There was an urban sportiness to many of the spring collections, including motocross leather vests and sheath dresses at Balenciaga; neoprene, scuba-inspired jackets at Emilio Pucci; relaxed fleece pants and jumpsuits at Alexander Wang; anoraks and leggings with athletic mesh details at Gucci; and Lycra bike shorts everywhere.
An anorak is a no-brainer, but Spanx as outerwear -- really? Store buyers say yes -- it’s a logical extension of the current leggings craze. They also make spring’s sheer layers and super-short pouf dresses wearable (without the risk of a TMZ-worthy crotch shot).
Shorts of all kinds are key for spring, according to Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus’ senior vice president and fashion director, as part of a trend he dubs “gymnasium chic.” They could be “city-tailored-to-the-knee shorts -- the pencil skirt of the season,” he says, or relaxed, rolled-up shorts, as seen at DKNY -- layered over a pair of bike shorts, of course.
“Off the runways, all the models in Paris are already wearing shorts over tights,” notes Stephanie Solomon, fashion director of Bloomingdale’s. She also sees the sporty trend manifesting itself in the striped bateau shirts that are already a craze on the streets. “We caught 35 striped shirts in the audience at one show in New York.”
Stripes and shorts, get ‘em while they’re hot.
So you’re not enamored of cone bras a la Lady Gaga, and you don’t work in a profession in which peekaboo skirts and exposed bras are an asset. That doesn’t have to mean a total dismissal of the sheer tulle, chiffon and organza layers shown on the runways at Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, Mario Schwab, Gianfranco Ferre, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino.
Many of spring’s sheer dresses and skirts will be shipped to stores with linings, reports Colleen Sherin, fashion market director for Saks Fifth Avenue. For pieces that are not lined, it’s all about layering and how to wear a slip or camisole underneath.
Still too risque? She points out that at the Chanel show (one of the strongest of the season), some of the tweed suits and dresses were styled with sheer coats or jackets on top, so that you can get the look without the exposure. So, a sheer layering piece in a pale boudoir-inspired shade -- or black -- could also be a good buy to update what you already have in your closet.
It was inevitable that the one-two punch of Michael Jackson’s death and fashion’s 1980s redux would bring back the military look -- Army green jackets with fringed epaulets and cargo leggings at Balmain, crisp safari dresses and lace-up ponchos at Celine and camp shirts buttoned all the way up at Chloe.
Here’s a trend that’s tailor-made for trickling down. If it’s not already at Zara, you know it’s at the Army Navy store.
When Ralph Lauren sent models down the runway in ripped jeans and crystal-studded sandals, tailored three-piece denim suits and blue ombre silk charmeuse carpenter pants, it was a shot heard ‘round the fashion world. Critics denounced it -- how dare he cite work wear as his inspiration during a recession? But even in this economy, one thing that’s still selling is jeans. And, as it turned out, Lauren wasn’t the only designer to riff on true blues.
The news was denim with a softer touch, whether by design or through styling. At Stella McCartney, that meant a button-front, stonewashed denim skirt worn with a white lace plunge-front camisole and a crisp khaki blazer. At Jean Paul Gaultier, it was a button-front dark denim shirt with corset stitching (part of an upcoming collaboration with Levi’s).
At Dolce & Gabbana, the trend turned up in a group of black lace-trimmed denim pieces, including a blouson-sleeve denim jacket. In the designers’ lower-priced D&G; line, the mood came through in the finale of chambray shirts tucked into cream tulle ballerina skirts, some worn with beat-up brown boots.
Dressed-up denim is “valid within the designer collections,” said Saks Fifth Avenue’s Sherin, “but also inspirational for the contemporary market.”
Translation: Knockoffs are sure to abound.
Sherin described it as “ethnic”; Downing as “tribal.” In New York, Thakoon Panichgul and Diane Von Furstenberg mixed animal prints and florals on single dresses. In London, Erdem Moralioglu and Peter Pilotto draped prints into couture-like dresses. In Milan, Versace brought back her brother’s famous Baroque prints on micro-minis. And in Paris, Alexander McQueen and Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci took the print story in a psychedelic, Op Art direction (you can bet they’ll be splashed on plenty of wallet-friendly silk scarves too).
But nobody has mastered this trend quite like Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, the auteur of the multi-culti look, whose sumptuous show was a global patchwork of Ikat print silk coats, striped jackets, paisley-print dresses and block-print pants.
The improvisational styling approach is part of the overall message of the season: It’s not about a total look; it’s about the mix. In other words, if you are going to wear cargo pants, pair them with a refined, boxy tweed jacket (seen at Louis Vuitton), and if you are going to wear a lacy slip skirt, pair it with a tailored safari jacket (seen at Chanel).
“I see the entire spring season as a study in contrasts,” said Bloomingdale’s Solomon. “Tender/tough, white/black, good/bad. It’s about wearing a ruffled dress with aggressive platform shoes, or an aggressive, sexy dress with a demure flat shoe or sandal, even shorts paired with a tailored blazer. It’s a beautiful contrast, and it’s also unique.”
Think of it as a fashion mash-up.