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InTents: The Boyfriend Jacket Minus the Boyfriend and Other Fashion Week Trends

What do Fashion Week trends say about us? We seem to want the excess and exuberance of the 80's, with a decadent dollop of sadomasochism on the side. Draw your own conclusions.
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It's supposed to look like the jacket you borrowed from your boyfriend: oversized, big shouldered and boxy. They're called boyfriend jackets, and the Spring 2010 shows in New York have runways filled with them. We have the jackets, but where are the boyfriends to go with them? It's as if they ran away and left their jackets behind. Oh, well.

That's not the only ironic trend this season; the big jacket is part of a big return to the 80's (the last time we had a decade with as much of an economic boom/bust cycle as this one). And 80's fashions, big shoulders, narrow pants, jumpsuits, short skirts and lots of bright colors and bold prints (not to mention an occasional bubble skirt a la Lacroix) are, well, bubbling up to the surface. They're all back. Maybe it's no accident that they're currently in production with a sequel to the movie Wall Street. It seems the design community has a case of decade envy. We all want le bon temps to roulez again!

Every fashionista obsesses over trends, but none more so than the retailers who actually have to sell the stuff. Their livelihood depends on spotting and selling the objects of our collective desire. Ken Downing, Fashion Director of Neiman Marcus, told me that, "Customers want newness. It's not just fashion's job, it's our responsibility!!!!" Whew, talk about pressure.

O.K., so what aside from the 80's hysteria does he find new? He sees the beginning of a return to American sportswear. He's channeling the ghost of Claire McCardell everywhere. She was the great American designer of the 40's and 50's who practically invented the American look. She was the only American designer who wouldn't even go to Europe to see what they were showing. She was the first designer to put an entirely American spin on things. She's influenced everyone from Donna to Isaac to Cynthia Rowley. You get it, almost everyone. And Ken Downing is seeing a McCardell Moment; great shirting (the ones at Derek Lam were to die for), simple takes on the shirtwaist, and separates. After several years of the dress, we're beginning to see more suits and item dressing. Aside from shirts, suits, skirts, shorts and jumpsuits, he's also seeing lots of anoraks and trench coats.

Linda Fargo, the Fashion Director of Bergdorf Goodman, agrees that the sportswear look is the next big thing. She also noticed that for the contemporary (i.e. younger) market, utility fabrics like denim, khaki and sweat-shirting are all the rage. At Alexander Wang they came in the form of fake football jerseys, a la Norma Kamali in the late 70's.

Duly noted by Bloomindales' Style Sage Stephanie Solomon, who identified a heavy yin/yang mix of feminine/masculine looks worn at once. Lots of lace, ruffles and bows, always contrasted against an edgier, more masculine piece. Badgely Mischka showed a little shrunken blazer (tiny boyfriend jacket?) paired with a long, laser cut frilly ball gown. Vera Wang showed either lace or tulle insets on shirts of strong architectural shapes and fabrics. Kind of mad ballerina meets Mad Max.

One of the two trends has continued big time from the last two seasons is the big necklace. The bigger the better. Half the editors in the audience are wearing them, as are half the models on the runway. They are gigantic, jeweled, and fabulously fake.

The other ongoing trend is the continuation of the bandage/bondage tight dress or skirt. Why, I wondered, does this somewhat menacing look continue to monopolize? According to Nicole Fischelis of Macy's, the bandage (great straps of fabric criss-crossing over other fabric to make it look constraining) sold more than any other item in their entire fashion department last season.

What does all this say about us? We seem to want the excess and exuberance of the 80's, with a decadent dollop of sadomasochism on the side. And don't forget Mommy's All American sportswear. You draw your own conclusions.

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