April 7, 2009

Sleeveless At Last: Your Guide to Spring Fashion

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I have been waiting a long time to delve into the Spring 2009 Ready-to-Wear lines and to bring you the best and boldest looks and trends. The fashion world’s timeline is very confusing: These designs were dreamt of last spring, debuted and manufactured in the fall and finally shipped to stores for you to buy this season. So when I say waiting, I mean a long time. But sporadic Ithaca weather be damned: It’s April, and it’s time for spring.
The main trends this year are a slew of new jacket cuts (many with strong shoulders), mid-length fuller shorts, high waists, great belts and bows — all in a delightful spring palette of white, a range of khakis, very pale peaches, pinks, pajama blues, lovely light greys and a peppering of bright and invigorating cobalt blue and near-neon yellows. Let me tell you, I am excited.
It’s difficult to decide the order in which to discuss these recurrent themes because, unlike other times, I think they are basically all part and parcel of the same design idea. I would like to posit that there is in fact a general re-focusing — not on the shoulder, as much of the press coverage declaring the come-back of shoulder pads or the ubiquity of the T-shape likes to assert — but with the waist as the focus, and the strong shoulder as (delightfully and intentionally) symptomatic.
On the runway: jackets. I just love Max Mara, and I especially loved its spring collection for this year, although I should admit I may be biased because all of their models had deliciously full pompadours which we all know is my favorite hair style ever. The line and its current magazine advertisements are delightfully eighties-oriented: strong eyebrows, blushed cheek bones and strong shoulders. The most distinctive jacket silhouettes, seen in varying lengths at Max Mara and at Akris, is boxy and double-breasted. There are a few long sleeve versions, but the majority in both lines are sleeveless.
At the Max Mara show, shorter jackets and vests were shown with full pants and higher waisted shorts, but always with a strong waist band, creating an hourglass shape. Both Max Mara and Akris had jackets and vests-cum-dresses, which, although pretty loose through the waist and hips, still support my theory: If you are given two angles of a triangle (the shoulders), the third point (the waist) is very apparent. Thus, both the sleeved and sleeveless jackets/vests highlighted the waist. The beauty of this is that your own personal waist might not actually be at that point, but no one will know!
Other jacket shapes this spring more blatantly show off the waist, either with subtle tailoring and lapels finishing at the waistline or with actual seams at the waist. My favorite of these, which has both a long sleeve and vest version, was at Max Mara. Its thin lapel is open until about center ribs, and the fabric is drape-like and blousy with a slight sheen until the waist, where it smoothes out into what appears to be a suiting material and finishes at mid-hip. Sigh. So this is love. A similar silhouette was displayed by 3.1 Philip Lim, who showed jackets with several tiers of ruffles starting at the waist exactly where the strong lapels finished. He also showed a lot of slouchier vests worn open to frame a more delineated shape beneath.
The focus on the waist was made overt by the various forms of belts, bows and sashes which abounded on the runways. The term ‘obi belt’ is being used a lot in the magazines to describe specifically the Louis Vuitton version of this trend. An obi is the waist-wrapping cloth tied in a huge, stiff bow that is part of traditional Japanese kimonos. The Louis Vuitton version, collages of mixed patterned and colored leather with thin cord, were actually some of the least obi-like. Chloé showed wide wrap-around fabric and leather belts tied in the front in dainty bows, and Marc Jacobs had both multicolored and textured scarves fastened with large decorative safety pins. As far as more traditional leather was concerned, Alexander McQueen showed his delicate floral prints with almost saddle-like corset belts which covered the entire hip to under-the-breast area. At 3.1 Philip Lim, standard men’s width belts were sculpted into wonderful leather bows, retaining the metal buckle to anchor the girly shape.
Popular bottoms included pencil skirts, slouchy trousers and high-waisted shorts. All the shorts featured were of a pretty new mid-thigh length (about a 7” inseam) and all introduced a fullness and lightness to their outfits. Some bordered on skirt status with their wide, open legs, while others got their fullness from pleats at waist band and tighter, rolled cuffs. Just another sign that this season is, more than ever, about balance: light colors, bow and ruffles against boxy men’s wear jacket cuts, strong shoulders highlighting interesting waist décor and more lady-like, modest bottoms allowing for sheerness and less coverage on top. Overall, it looks like this is going to be one beautiful spring.
Now if only it would stop raining …