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The Frill of It All

Fashion historians have long known that clothes are just as accurate a barometer of the culture for which they're created as any political or literary histories. O.K...So what are they saying this time?
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Ahh..the frill of it all.

Another Fashion Week here in New York, another frenzy. But hidden in all the hairspray, hubbub and hilarious air kisses are clues not only to what we'll be wearing next season, but what that says about us as a society right now, what we're feeling, and where we may be heading. Fashion historians have long known that clothes are just as accurate a barometer of the culture for which they're created as any political or literary histories.

O.K...So what are they saying this time???? Everybody is craving comfort clothes. No, not the soft stuff you wear on the weekends. We mean the kind that reminds everyone of the late fifties and the early sixties, the last time, it seems, when everything was truly right with the world. The last age of innocence. With an economy that seems scary, but still a bit of an enigma; an election that for the first time in decades seems to be providing an unknown factor (i.e., choices), everyone wants it to be simple again. And then, along comes the breakout hit TV series Mad Men on AMC (full disclosure...owned by my parent company, Rainbow Media) It has had a big impact on the design community.

Not only have they grooved to the great trilby hats and slim single breasted suits for men..they've embraced the sheaths, the full skirts, swing coats and sweaters that screamed oh so subtle under-the-girdled-sex, for-women. Perhaps if you subscribe to the Hegelian dialectic model of history, you can assume that since we've gone about as far as we can go sexually, we've shown about as much as we can show of our bodies we are now swinging all the way back to ladylike (and gentlemanly) late '50s and early models.

Not only has Mad Men, a TV series about Madison Avenue in its' heyday, provided this inspiration, the designer Michael Kors cites the works of film director Alfred Hitchcock. Think all those icy blonds in Marni, The Birds, and North by Northwest.

How does that translate into clothes? Remember words like polished, Put together, (and perish the thought) "matching!" -- words totally banned in the fashion world, lo, this last decade or so?? Well give them all a slightly slouch, disheveled, or downtown take, and you've got the look.

Add a slightly messed up/bedhead chignon and a smokier fifties makeup and you're good to go.

As for shapes...pencil skirts knee length or below. They're usually belted either with an extremely thin or thick belt. Or you might try a fifties circle skirt. Both would be accompanied by a wide swing three-quarter coat, a little fitted jacket, or a little decorative sweater. The kind our moms or grand moms folded neatly away in tissue paper. Or, at least, mine did. For night, the cocktail dress reigns supreme. Very often this dress is sleeveless and/or has a portrait collar.

Colors and fabrics are rich...not with irony...more with jewel tones, florals and tweeds shot through with metallics. Everything, it seems, is coming up roses in this season, but of the blurry, abstract kind. Just like the overall late fifties early sixties look, these are deconstructed versions of the originals. This season has LOTS of the color purple...perhaps a subtle nod to Oprah's not so subtle political influence? Other favorites are rich umbers citrines, royals and emeralds.

And there evening gowns are rich, exuberant and elegant. Thanks to the writers strike we may have fewer red carpet events, But there are always the inaugural balls to look forward to!

But if the Annie Hall look and the subsequent androgynous look took hold just as the women's movement was finally taking roots and women were finally entering the work place in significant numbers...Can it be any accident that a Kennedy is endorsing Obama as a new John Kennedy and the nations youth are flocking to him for "change"...and the designers are dressing us up for the movie that recreates that era?? Just asking?

As for standout and new emerging designers -- more on that next time!