These prints have very little in common with the classics. This year, designers painted stripes with a bold brush, used variously-sized polka dots head-to-toe, and paired plaids with floral blouses.
The key is to break every rule your mother taught you: Mix and match patterns. Select stripes in contrasting colors, pair the polka dots with stripes and spice up florals with any geometric design. Just make sure the contrasting patterns have a consistent theme, use the same color palette, or same motif.
Prada and Jil Sander presented some of the best collections of the season. Sander sent out a floor-length gown contrasting vertical black-and-sheer stripes on the bodice with the skirt's pink-and-white horizontal stripes. Prada took a white blouse with a navy monkey print and paired it with a black-and-fuchsia striped skirt. That same skirt served as the foundation for a blue-white-black-green striped top.
As you may have heard by now, Friday marks the 100th anniversary of one of the worst workplace tragedies in history -- the Triangle Waist Company fire where 146 people, mostly women, were killed in a New York garment factory. The factory was one of the largest makers of the shirtwaist. That event changed the labor movement forever, not to mention mandated laws like sprinkler systems and unlocked exits in public areas.
As newspapers and TV documentaries chronicle this terrible turn-of-the-century event, some people have asked me, "What exactly is a shirtwaist?"
As La Ferla points out in the Times, the shirtwaist was all the rage in America at the turn of the century. It was a combination of a tailored shirt and a skirt that showed a bit of leg (it would show even more leg years later). The shirtwaist began to take on historical significance in fashion. After the fire, it signified women's demands for better working conditions and a kind of liberation.
Several decades later, it morphed into Dior's famous New Look of the '40s, typified the way most women dressed in the '50s (think: Donna Reed) and, later that same decade, became an emblem of the civil rights movement.
Normally, Tokyo follows India in the global fashion week calendar. But in the wake of the earthquake, the tsunami and nuclear explosions that rocked the country, shows were canceled. Although Tokyo wasn't directly hit by catastrophe, the decision to halt the shows came down to an iffy electricity supply, transportation snafus and the safety of attendees.
Yet some of Japan's top designers showcased their collections at Lakme Fashion Week (pictured above) in India. Tokyoeye, an initiative by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, brought the best of Japanese fashion talent to India. Designers Motonari Ono, Tamae Hirokawa and Sara Arai showed on the very day the tsunami hit their home country.
Arai, implemented a dying art from Japan called Yohenzomei, in the form of a fabric that changes color under light. She hoped to make an impact on India in order to "send cheer back to her countrymen." Designers Hirokawa and Ono noted that they were influenced by their country's traditional weaves and craftsmanship.
After a long run, the precarious platform shoes we've seen for much of the last decade are giving a new, flatter platform. Or, as I'm calling them-flatforms.
If fashion soothsayers have names like Marc Jacobs, Fendi and Derek Lam, platforms here to stay-in fact, we can expect to see them through fall 2011 (Issey Miyake, above)-but gone are the high arches and their impossible heights. In their place are gentle graduated slopes full of the promise of easy promenades that don't give up much of the stature of their predecessors. That's not to say, these flatter versions are without danger. A fall show in New York featured flatform combat boots that made at least two female models and one male model fall flat on their faces.
By and large, though, this spring designers are delivering walkable wedges with no shortage of style. Marc Jacobs' platforms bring us back to the '70s with their rainbow colors adorning the arches of the shoe. Fendi confounds modern architectural rules with platforms that seem to come in three separate sections-a heel in emerald green, a mid-shoe in brown and a toe in natural wood with a bright blue strap. Derek Lam is probably the most traditional-basic Maryjanes in camel opened-toe or off-white closed toe upon natural-grained wood.
Dior's ousting of John Galliano may be dominating the fashion news, but Polo Ralph Lauren's newest children's book and its online Facebook contest is something we couldn't ignore.
Today, a day after the national Read Across America event, have your kids check out Uma Thurman narrating the The RL Gang: A Magically Magnificent School Adventure on RalphLauren.com and Bloomingdales.com. You can also shop the clothes--Ralph Lauren's spring children's collection--highlighted in the book.
In addition, Ralph Lauren is conducting a contest on its Facebook page that allows parents in the U.S. and the U.K. to upload photos of their child. Friends and family can then vote on the child of their choice. The winning whippersnapper will be chosen from the group of children with the most votes, flown to New York and cast as a member of the RL Gang (pictured above).
This is Ralph Lauren's second RL Gang virtual childrens book. As I reported a few months ago, there's a big incentive for adult designers to beef up their childrenswear business. It was one of the few areas that experienced growth during the economic downturn. The company's also experimenting with other forms of retailing.
Blame Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and consumer confidence: all reasons why Oscar fashion is expected to be dialed way up this year.
Hollywood actresses have suffered a fashion drought for years-showing up in any ensemble that said "conspicuous consumption" was a faux pas in the midst of economic misfortunes. But, now, as consumer confidence rises, so will the ante at this year's awards ceremony, say the experts. Colors are expected to be bolder, silhouettes more distinctive, baubles flashier: In other words, Sunday's red-carpet parade is shaping up to be a good show.
In fashion, one is always emboldened by precedent. "Artists are starting to dress much more crazy, more out there and it has a ripple effect on fashion," designer Marc Bouwer told Reuters yesterday. "While you won't see a Lady Gaga outfit necessarily on the Oscar red carpet, you will see more architectural styles -- an expanded shoulder, a pronounced sleeve. The stronger power woman has emerged, and you cannot ignore that trend."
Last month's Golden Globes, to which numerous luminaries turned out in pink, rose and pale skin tones, is always a good indicator of things to come at the Oscars. But you could see more purples, greens, oranges and indigo blues, too.
Among the oddball indicators of the economic future, hem lengths are one of the more popular. Urban lore says short skirts reflect a bullish stock market and hems drop when people get down on their luck.
New York Fashion Week officially wraps up today and, one of the take away messages is longer hems are here to stay. Ne fret pas: That doesn't mean we're in for another meltdown. In fact, the industry has been showing signs of a turnaround. Nevertheless, hems lowered in the middle of the downturn and longer silhouettes seem to be having a lasting effect on fashion.
Except for a nod to the '70s last season, Marc Jacobs has been flirting with a more demure, sophisticated look for a few seasons now. For fall, he showed grown up silhouettes ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Dior's New Look from the '40s in futuristic materials such as a metallic rubber, fur and cellophane.
Looks for the boardroom are what Donna Karan does best, and she was clearly enamored with '50s silhouettes for today's all-business woman. Bloggers mentioned Tippi Hedren and Grace Kelly as a way to describe the Hollywood glamour Karan managed to add to her working girls.
There's life after haute couture.
Christian Lacroix, who delivered his last haute couture collection in Paris on July 2008 to rave reviews, has not chosen to spend his post-retirement days at the beach. Instead, it appears the designer is busier than ever. Lacroix has reinvented himself as museum curator, furniture designer and a fairytale book illustrator. He's also planning to design costumes for a German opera company and is putting out a women's capsule collection for a Spanish clothing brand.
What the couture fashion world has lost in Lacroix--he no longer has anything to do with his namesake label that, after bankruptcy, was acquired by a duty free shops company in Florida--the art and design world has gained. This month alone, you can see what he's done with a museum and a book.
As the artistic director of "Women in Orient," he has curated an exhibition of costumes and accessories that opened earlier this week Quai Branly Museum in Paris and runs through May 16. It's mostly ceremonial clothing from Syria, Jordan and Palestine during the 19th and 20th centuries. But under Lacroix's direction--the designer likes to blend a French sensibility with the exotic--you can expect to see an eye-arresting, rich melange of contrasting patterns and embroidery.
Gallery: Christian Lacroix Sleeping Beauty
Michelle Obama has weathered the sartorial storm.
Late last week on Good Morning America, she faced her critics: "Look, women, wear what you love. That's all I can say. That's my motto. I wear what I like because...I gotta be in the dress, so..."
Next week, she will be lauded for connecting with everyday Americans by her attainable style in a book by Kate Betts, Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style (Clarkson Potter, February 8, 2011).
If you haven't been keeping track, here's what all the fuss was about: Weeks after the First Lady wore an Alexander McQueen gown (pictured above) to a state dinner honoring Chinese president Hu Jintao, her fashion choice had grown into a full-blown kerfuffle. Some blogs were even calling it McQueengate.
From a fashion point of view, most critics agreed it was a slam dunk (the color red is auspicious in Chinese culture). From a political viewpoint, several U.S. designers-Oscar de la Renta and Diane Von Furstenberg, in particular-voiced disapproval that she donned a British, instead of American, label on an evening that was supposed to promote American Chinese trade.
The Haute Couture Spring 2011 shows have yet to wrap up in Paris this week and, already, we know the end of the story. Designers are walking the tightrope between pale blush, pinks and nudes on the one side, and bright saturated jewel tones on the other. Similarly, styles are either soft, feminine and ethereal or dramatic and rich.
"There's a sense of lightness that we're seeing, particularly in the materials," says Joanna Manganaro, an editor specializing in womenswear at trend forecasting firm Stylesight. "Chiffon, tulle--everything is done in a light-handed way. It feels featherweight. It's something more modern, more uplifting."
That was clearly the case with Givenchy. Riccardo Tisci, a designer better known for being dark and severe, delivered a collection of gowns in pale yellows, barely-there pinks and light nudes as a tribute to Butoh dander Kazuo Ohno. In the end, he remained true to his reputation for boldness. When the models turned, they revealed the backs of the gowns that were embroidered in neon orange, chartreuse and fuchsia.
Christian Dior (pictured above) had a more traditional view of things. John Galliano paid tribute to René Gruau, an illustrator who created the house's iconic images from the '40s and '50s. Remember Dior's New Look from the '40s? Galliano (who has a new look himself--a shag haircut) reinterpreted the New Look in in electric blue, fuchsia, brown, emerald green and red taffeta and satin. One of the highlights was a flaring white skirt topped with a burnt-orange jacket with shoulders out-to-there.
Gallery: Full Bloom