Stella McCartney's shows are always a dialogue between masculine and feminine. Mannish or womanly, the clothes usually give off a fair bit of heat. Her new collection for Fall wasn't exactly sexless, but it did have a cooler, less come-hither sensibility than usual, which seemed to play against her strengths. It started with banker's pinstripes—the first look a double-breasted jacket with uneven, diagonal hems worn over a long skirt in a thinner stripe with a folded drape in front. More covered-up pinstripes followed: men's coats that topped cropped pants, a buttoned-to-the-collar shirt tucked into pleated trousers, and an unstructured dress extending to the mid-calf. Backstage, the designer talked about "inserting the feminine into masculine," but the models' willowy frames tended to get a bit lost in the clothes. A striped turtleneck sweater shown with a flippy miniskirt felt more like the old Stella.
The generous proportions of the menswear extended into polo-neck dresses that more or less fell in loose lines from the shoulders to several inches below the knee. McCartney showed these in fine gauge knits inset with delicate lace, as well as in a gorgeous ultraviolet silk. Sans collars, they came in a peeled-back wallpaper print spelling out SKATE, a print that maybe suggested, like the models' wool baseball caps and the sturdy tire-tread shoes, that she had been looking to the street for ideas. Of everything on the runway today, it was easiest to picture the oversize tartan coats in the real world when the weather turns cold again.
Things warmed up some for evening, and there McCartney was thinking along languid and more structured lines. In the former category, simple squares of silk were suspended from wide bands of elastic. In the latter, a lapel spilled down the front of a strapless bustier dress in black silk jacquard, but it couldn't detract from its seductive appeal.