City life has taken its toll, like a chronic case of the flu punching a maxed-out immune system. The cold weather in New York feels particularly brutal this year, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the last thing I want to do is go running for a nightclub in a neon frock as some sort of antidote to the winter blues.
A quick assessment of the fall collections we’ve seen in New York, London and Milan so far—Paris Fashion Week started yesterday—has many designers (Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez) offering up acidic colors for fall, partly to encourage optimism, it seems, during cold, gray months and partly to counteract grim retail realities and generally sour times. Let’s all celebrate being broke by putting on something in chartreuse!
However, I’d rather take the recession quite literally, and recess. Falling of the grid and frolicking in some fields sounds pretty good right now. I rode a bus through New England last weekend, and it reminded me that dead things can look pretty. Overcast skies, bare tree branches the color of a burnt marshmallow, and charcoal-flecked snow made me want to wear the weather. Even the highway itself made for some nice graphic lines tracing the hinterlands.
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While there was an abundance of ‘80s excess on the runways this season, as designers decided that Bonfire of the Vanities-era dressing would be welcomed back with all its puffed sleeves, loud colors and prom-dress silhouettes, there were also plenty of collections that offered the opposite—clothes for weathering a storm, or retreating into the bush. These clothes were full of brilliant justifications for rejecting the artifice of DayGlo. Why not wrap a camel-colored cashmere blanket around you like a coat? Or wear a suit the color of a stormy sky?
“It's all about the death of the nightclub, and about a new desire for a rural retreat, where clothes are strong and sturdy," Miuccia Prada told Fashion Wire Daily at her recent Milan show, against the backdrop of a week that had designers doing the ‘80s and designing with restraint in equal parts.
Why not wrap a camel-colored cashmere blanket around you like a coat? Or wear a suit the color of a stormy sky?
Prada’s leather strap-on thigh-high wading boots will either ready you for a Montana fly-fishing trip or for an illicit round of mud wrestling, and her thick wool suits would have served somber artist Joseph Beuys well had he worn it during one of his epic outdoor performances. The clothes at Jil Sander seemed like a sculptor’s abstract renderings of a winter road trip—precisely like wearing the weather.
Likewise, Max Mara looks like a fall day in the flesh, all rust-colored leaves. And Burberry Prorsum’s Bloomsbury-inspired collection offered an upper-crust take on country living for all those wannabe Ramsays journeying to the lighthouse. Both Missoni and Diane von Furstenberg celebrated layering as a luxury—all wrapped up, but secretly hoping there’s nowhere to go.
This nature-calls dressing is more than just a “back-to-the-land” concept—it signals a return to earth with clothes. I don’t know that I need clothes sturdy enough for mucking around in a swamp, but I wouldn’t mind a weekend involving soft padding through an idyllic, perhaps even tidy, forest of pine needles in a regal-yet-rugged Ralph Lauren patchwork tweed coat.
Renata Espinosa is the New York editor of Fashion Wire Daily. She is also the co-founder of the impressionistic fashion and art blog TheNuNu and a sometimes backup dancer for "The Anna Copa Cabanna Show."