It all started with Billie Holiday, Scott Sternberg reported before his Band of Outsiders show today. "I had a mix of her songs, and I was killing everyone in the office playing it on infinite repeat," he recalled, a wicked gleam in his eyes. "So basically," he added with a shrug, "that got me thinking about the 1940s." If the forties-inspired silhouettes on Sternberg's runway had a matter-of-fact explanation, so too did the collection's seemingly far-flung Atari reference. As it turned out, those Asteroids prints and primitive digital graphics grew out of a forthcoming Atari collaboration Sternberg is working on for his menswear. Strong-shouldered shapes redolent of Hollywood's film noir heyday, plus Space Invaders and Pong: Why not?
It was tempting to get distracted by the rich possibilities of Bogie and Bacall films being remade as video games. But the clothes snapped you back to attention. The striking thing about this collection was that the looks were very womanly—there were menswear references in the pinstriped shirtdresses, and in Sternberg's variety of classic wool suiting materials, but atypically for Band, there wasn't a gamine in sight. These were full-fledged, curve-having, sexually confident Band of Outsiders women. "Dames," if you will. Or even "broads," perhaps. The dresses were a highlight of the show, particularly the nipped-waist pencil dresses with small Atari character prints; other strong looks included the slouchy pinstripe and micro-check suits and a pleated skirtsuit of patchworked Black Watch plaid. Sternberg also deserves special credit for his capes—that's a conceptually tricky garment (what do you do with your arms? And your hands?), but his versions were convincing. Eventually, the rather remarkable-looking knit turban caps on all the models started to look convincing, too. You could envision the broad wearing one turning to some smirking guy on the subway, and saying, "Wipe that look off your face, Joe, or I'll knock you right in the kisser." Game over.