The clothes of the moment — and their pasts.
This season, clothes seem especially geared to garner attention: platforms, big puffy coats, and lots of purple. Nineteen-eighties-style glitz and excess fit perfect for a Bret Easton Ellis heroine — especially exaggerated shoulders — were in evidence, as was the 1990s-grunge penchant for layering a fancy evening gown over a simple turtleneck or T-shirt. Layering was a recurring theme: This fall, you can cozy up in military-style outerwear, throw on a tartan coat, try out a sweeping cape, or keep the chill at bay with an elevated version of the workaday puffer jacket. On the accessories front, we saw stacked heels that would give Marilyn Manson vertigo, impossibly tiny evening bags, and a punk take on Park Avenue pearls, which were turned into ear cuffs and knuckle-dusters, or embellished a humble pair of shower slides. See below for a primer on the season’s top trends.
1. Shearling: They became popular on men first: fighter pilots, Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.
Balenciaga, Burberry, Coach 1941, Céline, and Hermès.
Maison Margiela, Marc Jacobs, Prada, Altuzarra, and Kate Spade New York.
2. 1980s: This nod to the age of excess can’t help but feel ironic.
Kenzo, Lanvin, Isabel Marant, and Monse.
Monse, Miu Miu, and Saint Laurent.
3. Velvet: It originated in the Middle East in the 14th century and entered Europe via Venice.
Alberta Ferretti, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Adam Selman, and Derek Lam.
Giorgio Armani, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren Collection, DKNY, and Marni.
Rochas, Prada, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Valentino, and Dries Van Noten.
4. Layered Eveningwear: It was Marc Jacobs and the idea of grunge in the early ’90s that started the idea of playing down your most precious dress.
Céline, Jacquemus, Chanel, and Hermès.
Proenza Schouler, Undercover, Valentino, and Dries Van Noten.
5. Stacked Heels: In the 15th century, platforms were worn by both genders.
According to Elizabeth Semmelhack, a curator at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum, we’re in the 12th century of the high heel. The style is thought to have originated among Persian equestrians who wore high heels so that their feet could stay in stirrups, as seen in artwork on a ninth-century ceramic bowl from the region. From there, the heel has gone to vertiginous heights. There were chopines — worn by Venetian prostitutes in the 1400s in order to stand out from the competition, and frequently reaching heights of one and a half feet. Diminutive King Louis XIV insisted on wearing teetering, red-soled heels — the forerunner of modern Louboutins — which soon became a court craze. The 20th century has seen the invention of the stiletto; glam-rock platforms worn by David Bowie; Marilyn Manson’s goth high-heeled boots; and, more recently, the perilous, comma-shaped “armadillo shoes” created by Alexander McQueen.
Maison Margiela, at 801–803 Greenwich St.; 212-989-7612; Roberto Cavalli, at 711 Madison Ave.; 212-755-7722; Rochas, at modaoperandi.com; Vivienne Westwood, at viviennewestwood.com.
Gucci, at 725 Fifth Ave.; 212-826-2600; Marc Jacobs, at 113 Prince St.; 212-343-1490; Balenciaga, similar styles at Dover Street Market, 160 Lexington Ave.; 646-837-7750; Jeremy Scott, at jeremyscott.com.
6. Capes: Popularized in the 16th century for their ability to conceal a sword.
Junya Watanabe, at 160 Lexington Ave.; 646-837-7750; Dries Van Noten, at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-7300; Chloé, at 850 Madison Ave.; 212-717-8220; Salvatore Ferragamo, at 665 Fifth Ave.; 212-759-3822; Alexander McQueen, at 747 Madison Ave.; 212-645-1797.
Hilfiger Collection, at 681 Fifth Ave.; 212-223-1824; Prada, at 575 Broadway; 212-334-8888; Maison Margiela, at 801–803 Greenwich St.; 212-989-7612; Marni, at 161 Mercer St.; 212-343-3912; Giorgio Armani, at 760 Madison Ave.; 212-988-9191.
7. Quilted Coats: How Norma Kamali invented the puffer.
While camping with a friend in 1970, Norma Kamali had a “eureka” moment on her chilly journey to the bathroom in the middle of the night. “When I wrapped my sleeping bag around me,” the designer recalls, “it was clear that this could be the warmest coat that you could ever have. It was from that experience that I was able to come up with the sleeping-bag coat,” which quickly became a fashion hit. “I think because it really doesn’t look like fashion that it’s sort of a thing that survived time beautifully,” she adds. “Anybody who got one and went through a cold winter was very, very grateful for having it.”
Acne Studios, at acnestudios.com; Marques’Almeida, at marquesalmeida.com; Balenciaga, at 148 Mercer St.; 212-206-0872.
Alexander McQueen, at 747 Madison Ave.; 212-645-1797; Hood by Air, at hoodbyair.com; DKNY, at 420 W. Broadway; 646-613-1100.
8. Pearls: The world’s oldest gems, they were popularized by Kokichi Mikimoto, the son of a Japanese noodle-maker, in 1893, when he figured out how to culture them. Jackie Kennedy and Hubert de Givenchy made them the gold standard of respectability.
Clockwise from top-left: Gucci, at 725 Fifth Ave.; 212-826-2600; Jason Wu, at jasonwustudio.com; Moschino, at 73 Wooster St.; 212-226-8300; Marni, at 161 Mercer St.; 212-343-3912; Coach 1941, at 10 Columbus Cir.; 212-581-4115; Rag & Bone, other styles at rag-bone.com.
Clockwise from top-left: Gucci, at 725 Fifth Ave.; 212-826-2600; Marchesa, at nordstrom.com; Chanel, at 15 E. 57th St.; 212-355-5050; Miu Miu, at 11 E. 57th St.; 212-641-2980; Dries Van Noten, at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-7300; Jason Wu, at jasonwustudio.com.
9. Leopard: First spotted after World War I, the print became popular around the time of Dior’s New Look.
Dolce & Gabbana, at 717 Fifth Ave.; 212-897-9653; Dior, at 21 E. 57th St.; 212-931-2950; Acne Studios, at acnestudios.com; J.Crew, at jcrew.com; Givenchy, at 747 Madison Ave.; 212-650-0180.
Bottega Veneta, at 650 Madison Ave.; 212-371-5511; Longchamp, at 132 Spring St.; 212-343-7444; Prada, at 575 Broadway; 212-334-8888; Maison Margiela, at 801–803 Greenwich St.; 212-989-7612; Dries Van Noten, at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-7300.
10. Purple: The royal history of a rich hue.
The source of the hue’s status as a royal color came from its rarity. In Roman times, it was nearly impossible to create a purple dye, explains Kate Strasdin of Falmouth University’s Fashion and Textiles Institute. “It came from a small mollusk and was made in the trading port of Tyre, in what would be Lebanon today,” thus its designation as Tyrian purple, she says. “It took 9,000 of these mollusks to make a gram of the rare purple dye, and was therefore fabulously expensive.” When the dye was exported to Rome, only the emperor was allowed to wear purple garments. Purple hung on to its rarefied reputation: Queen Elizabeth I, Strasdin says, “forbade anybody but the closest members of the royal family to wear purple.” By the mid-19th century, the dye was more widely available and became a trend, overexposed to the point where magazines of the time dubbed it “the purple measles.” Now that you can pick up a purple T-shirt at any H&M, it’s no longer considered exclusive, but we see a vestige of that history now when the queen wears a purple crown to the State Opening of Parliament.
Delpozo, at modaoperandi.com; Ralph Lauren, at 888 Madison Ave.; 212-434-8000; Bottega Veneta, at 650 Madison Ave.; 212-371-5511; Roberto Cavalli, at 711 Madison Ave.; 212-755-7722; Prabal Gurung, to order at 212-257-4354.
Fendi, at fendi.com; Marco de Vincenzo, at Barneys New York, 660 Madison Ave.; 212-826-8900; Fendi, at fendi.com; Elie Saab, at stylebop.com; Dries Van Noten, at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-7300.
Tod’s, at 650 Madison Ave.; 212-644-5945; Tod’s, at 650 Madison Ave.; 212-644-5945; Loewe, at loewe.com; Marc Jacobs, at 113 Prince St.; 212-343-1490.
Carolina Herrera, at 954 Madison Ave.; 212-249-6552; Roberto Cavalli, at 711 Madison Ave.; 212-755-7722; Moschino, at 73 Wooster St.; 212-226-8300; Kenzo, at Opening Ceremony, 35 Howard St.; 212-219-2688.
Carven, at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-4000; Michael Kors Collection, at net-a-porter.com; Miu Miu, at 11 E. 57th St.; 212-641-2980; Vetements, at vetementswebsite.com.
Chloé, at chloe.com; Simone Rocha, at ikram.com; Simone Rocha, at Dover Street Market, 160 Lexington Ave.; 646-837-7750; Vanessa Seward, at vanessaseward.com.
Prince’s favorite color.
Prince will be remembered forever for his music, but he also leaves behind decades of impeccable outfits to reckon with, many in his signature color, purple. It’s hard to know exactly what drew the performer to the color — was it the regal significance, the Christ parallel, or the casual subversion of gender norms? — but he wore it well … and often. Prince’s passion for purple has trickled down into the fashion world over the years, and many of this year’s shows, though no one could know that we would lose him in April, seemed to be loosely inspired by the Purple One. Look to Chloé creative director Clare Waight Keller’s fall 2016 ready-to-wear collection, which offset an army of sporty beige, black, and white pieces with rich plum and wine accents and ruffles that would sit comfortably in a display of Prince’s own stately Victorian threads. Check out Dries Van Noten’s fall show of stark, gothic looks, said to channel eccentric Italian heiress Luisa Castati and poet and political firebrand Gabriele D’Annunzio. And would Prince’s ghoul-in-eveningwear look from the “Batdance” video seem out of place in Van Noten’s collision of extreme makeup and purple and gold pantsuits? Probably not. —Craig Jenkins, New York’s music critic
Most of the casualwear we now take for granted — T-shirts, khakis, trench coats — has its origins in military uniforms. That extends to outerwear as well. The classic peacoat began its life as part of the Dutch naval uniform (the name comes from pij, the Dutch word for wool). Its broad collar was originally intended to shield sailors from wind and rain. The M-65 field jacket, worn by Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, was issued to soldiers in Vietnam beginning in 1965. And the bomber jacket, worn by everyone from Marlon Brando to James Dean to Ryan Gosling, began its life as part of the World War I fighter pilot’s uniform, meant to keep soldiers warm in the exposed cockpit.
Coach 1941, at 10 Columbus Cir.; 212-581-4115; Burberry, at burberry.com; Dolce & Gabbana, at select Dolce & Gabbana stores; Givenchy, at 747 Madison Ave.; 212-650-0180; Gucci, at 725 Fifth Ave; 212-826-2600.
Maison Margiela, at 801–803 Greenwich St.; 212-989-7612; Prada, at 575 Broadway; 212-334-8888; Sacai, at Dover Street Market, 160 Lexington Ave.; 646-837-7750; Louis Vuitton, at 1 E. 57th St.; 212-758-8877; Roberto Cavalli, at 711 Madison Ave.; 212-755-7722.
In 1746, an act was passed banning the wearing of tartans in Scotland as an attempt to crack down on the country’s warrior clans. (The so-called Dress Act was repealed in 1782.) The pattern didn’t originate in Scotland: Traces of it have been found in Central Europe and China, and it didn’t come to Scotland until the late 1500s. Nowadays, Scottish clans can register their official tartans: There’s Queen Elizabeth II’s, which is the Royal Stewart tartan, and Burberry’s recognizable (and copyrighted) version. Alexander McQueen designed his own tartan for his fall 1995 show, called “Highland Rape”; the fabric expressed both ethnic pride and anger at what he considered the “rape” of his family’s homeland by the English.
Bottega Veneta, at 650 Madison Ave.; 212-371-5511; Chanel, at 15 E. 57th St.; 212-355-5050; Balenciaga, at 148 Mercer St.; 212-206-0872; Etro, at 720 Madison Ave.; 212-317-9096; Sonia Rykiel, at 816 Madison Ave.; 212-396-3060.
Calvin Klein Collection, at 654 Madison Ave.; 212-292-9000; Burberry, at burberry.com; Jacquemus, at jacquemus.com; Ralph Lauren Collection, at 888 Madison Ave.; 212-434-8000; Loewe, at loewe.com.
13. Padded Shoulders: The original shoulder pads were sometimes stuffed with sawdust.
The first shoulder pads were mostly triangular in shape and popularized by Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s and by Joan Crawford, who would become associated with the big-shouldered, strong-browed look, wearing Gilbert Adrian’s gowns in Letty Lynton. A Macy’s copy of one of her character’s dresses sold thousands of units after the film’s release. In the ’80s, the heyday of power dressing, those strong-shouldered ’30s and ’40s silhouettes returned, and women dressing for corporate workplaces drew strength from their linebacker shoulders. But the look spilled over: Everyone from Madonna and Princess Diana to the cast of Dynasty could be seen in Crawford-esque blazers and jackets.
Vetements, at nordstrom.com; Saint Laurent, at 3 E. 57th St.; 212-980-2970; Comme des Garçons, at 520 W. 22nd St.; 212-604-0013; Gucci, at 725 Fifth Ave.; 212-826-2600; Jacquemus, at Jeffrey, 449 W. 14th St.; 212-206-1272.
Blame Catherine de Medici, who popularized the corset in the 1500s. When it reemerged in the Victorian era, it had an exaggerated hourglass shape and was tightly laced. Reformers protested the corset’s organ-cinching, but it didn’t really disappear until World War I: Corsets were made with metal, which was needed for the war effort. “It’s really not so much that women abandoned the corset as they internalized it in the form of diet and exercise and, later, plastic surgery,” says Valerie Steele, author of The Corset: A Cultural History. But popular corset substitutes have popped up now and then, from the girdles of the mid-20th century to the waist trainers of today, endorsed on Instagram by the Kardashians and Amber Rose.
Brock Collection, at modaoperandi.com; Loewe, at loewe.com; Louis Vuitton, similar styles at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-4000; Alexander McQueen, at 747 Madison Ave.; 212-645-1797; Prada, at 575 Broadway; 212-334-8888.
In 1970, New York shot Raquel Welch in a pink vinyl jumpsuit by André Courrèges, calling the look “more challenge than comfort.” PVC was invented by accident in 1926 by a scientist working for B.F. Goodrich, but it wasn’t on the runway until 1963, when Mary Quant used it for her “Wet Collection,” writing that she was “bewitched … with this super-shiny man-made stuff and its shrieking colors.” Mods saw it as the clothing of the future. Then along came the hippies, who were into earthier stuff. But vinyl always comes back: The superhero costumes in Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video are from an L.A. sex shop.
Acne Studios, at acnestudios.com; Burberry, at burberry.com; Comme des Garçons, at 520 W. 22nd St.; 212-604-0013; Hood by Air, at hoodbyair.com.
Kenzo, at Opening Ceremony, 35 Howard St.; 212-219-2688; Lanvin, at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-7300; Isabel Marant, at 469 Broome St.; 212-219-2284; Valentino, at 693 Fifth Ave.; 212-355-5811; Louis Vuitton, similar styles at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-4000.
16. Micro Bags: The original point of the purse was to carry coins: These can just about manage a quarter or two.
Giorgio Armani, at 760 Madison Ave.; 212-988-9191; Diane von Furstenberg, at dvf.com; Marc Jacobs, at 113 Prince St.; 212-343-1490; Dolce & Gabbana, at 717 Fifth Ave.; 212-897-9653; Michael Kors Collection, at 790 Madison Ave.; 212-452-4685.
Clockwise from left: Burberry, at burberry.com; Gucci, at 725 Fifth Ave.; 212-826-2600; Michael Kors Collection, at 790 Madison Ave.; 212-452-4685; Bottega Veneta, at 650 Madison Ave.; 212-371-5511; Moschino, at shop.nordstrom.com.
17. Sequins: A sparkling history.
“It’s so funny, because I don’t wear sequins, but I’m one of the largest users of sequins in captivity,” jokes stage-and-screen costume designer William Ivey Long, who is responsible for the snazzy looks in Chicago and Crazy for You, among others. And Long is a font of information on the sequin’s fascinating pre-Fosse history. For example, did you know that sequins began their life in a heavier, more valuable incarnation than today’s flimsy adornments? King Tut was buried arrayed in the Ancient Egyptian precursor to the sequin: pieces of gold with holes in the center. With him in his tomb were sequined clothes, a kind of trousseau for the afterlife.
The modern-day name comes from the Italian zecchino, which refers to a gold Venetian coin. Sequins’ association with wealth is a longstanding one: They were used as the coin of the realm in France until Napoleon arrived. Even Leonardo da Vinci took a break from his more-serious inventions to come up with a machine that would punch sequins out of metal, which he sketched during the late 15th century. (Unfortunately for would-be Renaissance bedazzlers, the device was never actually produced.)
By the time the flapper era rolled around, there was a need for sequins to be lighter — so they could stand up to a frenetic Charleston, for example. By the 1930s, sequins were manufactured from gelatin, using a new electroplating process. But, says Long, they didn’t stand up so well to a dance partner’s sweaty palms: “If you’d had an exciting evening, you’d have a handprint on the back of your dress.”
Mylar sequins, slightly less flimsy, came along in the 1950s, thanks to the scientists at DuPont; nowadays, they are mostly made of sturdy plastic, so that holiday parties can be a little less stressful for all concerned.
Michael Kors on His Favorite Hollywood Sequin Moments
“I love the juxtaposition of laid-back glamour — so when you have someone sportier, like Kate Hudson or Elle Macpherson, in a sequined look, it’s amazing. And then I love the glamour girls who make sequins look like an everyday essential — like Jennifer Lopez, and Blake Lively and Zendaya. Of course, Julie Christie in Shampoo and Liza in Cabaret are all-time sequin moments.”
Opening Ceremony, at openingceremony.com; Dior, at 21 E. 57th St.; 212-931-2950; Rochas, at modaoperandi.com; Balenciaga, at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-4000; Michael Kors Collection, at michaelkors.com; Erdem, at erdem.com.
Sonia Rykiel, at 816 Madison Ave.; 212-396-3060; Louis Vuitton, similar styles at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-4000; Diane von Furstenberg, at dvf.com; Hilfiger Collection, at 681 Fifth Ave.; 212-223-1824; Versace, at 647 Fifth Ave.; 212-317-0224.
*A version of this article appears in the August 8, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.