Of the hundreds of gowns at this week’s Met ball, the most striking were also the most restrained. Zoe Saldana and Diane Kruger looked chic in unadorned Calvin Klein Collection gowns; ditto Jessica Stam in long-sleeved Rachel Roy. Plenty of minimal eveningwear could be found on the Fall runways, too. “Less is more these days,” Yigal Azrouël told us. “People are tired of all the froufrou and are just craving simplicity.” The designer turned out long, sleek dresses notable for how covered up they were, as did Antonio Berardi and Andrew Gn. At Stella McCartney and The Row, meanwhile, hemlines were raised, but the silhouettes were just as streamlined.
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The popularity of floor-length skirts on the Fall runways suggests that the hemline index theory just might hold true, but Adam Lippes isn’t buying it. “Supposedly everything traces back to the economy these days, or Michelle Obama, but I think it’s just a reaction to all the hard looks we’ve been seeing for the past two or three years,” the ADAM designer told us. “It’s a shift to an easier way of dressing.” Lippes paired his billowy maxi dresses with chunky sweaters and slouchy boots, as did Richard Chai. Similarly, shoe-grazing slim knit skirts turned up at Michael Kors and Sonia Rykiel. And off the runway, meanwhile, photographers snapped girls toeing the line between winter and spring in long, bright numbers worn with cropped leather jackets.
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Velvet just might be the most polarizing textile of them all. For some of us, the tufted fabric is an unpleasant reminder of the stiff party dresses donned for the yearly family photo shoot. For others, like Rachel Roy, one of many designers who used modern versions of the densely piled material on the Fall runways, it’s the ultimate luxury. “I don’t use fur, so I was looking for fabrics that felt as rich and soft to the touch,” the designer told Style.com. She cited “a return to elegance and a sense of relaxed glamour all around” as the reason for the fabric’s popularity. This isn’t the velvet you remember: Curve-enhancing jewel-toned evening dresses popped up at Dolce & Gabbana and Antonio Berardi, while Alexander Wang and Richard Nicoll turned out plush trousers (Wang’s are pictured, left) that were cool enough to quell even the ugliest school-era memories
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After several seasons of skintight pants, designers expanded their offerings for Fall with trousers cut more generously at the hems. “The flared pant looks fresh, and they make legs look like they go on forever,” Derek Lam told us. “That kind of exaggerated proportion looks right, right now.” Joseph Altuzarra and Balmain‘s Christophe Decarnin likewise went long, with narrow rock-chick trousers that fanned out over the feet. At Prada and Rochas (left), meanwhile, the style took the form of kick flares cropped well above the ankle. Not necessarily leg-elongating, but a strong, directional look nonetheless.
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For an industry as obsessed with change as fashion is, there certainly were plenty of designers thinking about the past this season. Miuccia Prada said she was revising things she did in the nineties (though, it must be said, most of her almost-15-year-old designs look just as modern today as they did during the Clinton years). Marc Jacobs, who told us it was refreshing to stop trying so hard to be new, tweaked signatures like tweedy three-quarter-length coats and long skirts. And at Dolce & Gabbana, a video showing Domenico Dolce expertly tailoring a jacket was a moving backdrop to the parade of trademark sexy suits he and Stefano Gabbana sent down the runway. As far as trends go, this return to roots is about as customer-friendly as they come. After all, how else would these pieces become classics if they weren’t beloved in the first place?
Click here for more examples of the now and the then, and tell us what you make of the connections.