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There have been complaints about the spring 2021 collections. People kvetch in group chats and Twitter threads that digital shows are not as good as the real thing—and that the real thing is not as good as it used to be. That’s one way to look at the current situation, but there’s a thrilling upside to this fragmented season: We are experiencing something actually new. In an industry that hews so passionately to tradition, heritage, and status quo, how exciting is it to feel that after seasons of talk, we are finally on the precipice of real, tangible change? That change will hopefully take many forms beyond a democratized digi-physical fashion week, but this season of shows has been a good start.
The biggest shift in the garments that flashed across our screens is that, for the first time in a long time, these looked like clothes that are meant to be worn. The irony and irreverence of all those seasons dancing on the lip of a volcano in cake topper gowns has given way to something more thoughtful and realistic this season. There is an intimacy in the second skin knitwear seen at Rick Owens and Thebe Magugu and in the textural and hand-worked materials used by Kenneth Ize and Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson. The many stylish sweatsuits, long tunics, and ballooning trousers at Prada, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton offer forgiveness and elegance for bodies at rest. The peaked shoulders at Balmain and Balenciaga will cut through space with glamour and a bit of grit, while the exuberant everyday clothes seen at Molly Goddard, Marni, and Dries Van Noten guarantee big sparks of joy packaged in the tried-and-true form of jeans, cardigans, and midi-skirts. Dresses are pouf-sleeved and vaguely ’40s in shape at Rodarte, Coach, and Chopova Lowena, a silhouette comfy enough to wear at home and beautiful enough to toss on for a socially distanced dinner.
There are real, covetable clothes for how we want to dress now.
Spending 8 hours a day on a Zoom call requires much more than just a fun top. A comfortable chair is a good place to start, but also necessary are easy-to-wear pants that allow for a wide range of motion. The oversize trousers at Louis Vuitton, The Row, and Stella McCartney are just the fix for a sedentary life—and an active one, too. With maximum swoosh factor, these pants pick up on fashion’s ’80s revival, guaranteeing that wherever you walk—around the neighborhood or simply from the table to the bedroom—you look dramatic and elegant.
At one of the season’s most anticipated debuts, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons spoke about creating a new uniform. Their sweatsuits, a marriage of Prada’s full-skirt silhouettes and Simons’s graphic tendencies, feel like the right style for our slouchy present. Balenciaga, Rodarte, and Collina Strada have playful takes on sweats too—though maybe only Matthew Williams’s Givenchy hoodie (the season’s other anticipated debut) qualifies as black tie.
Fantastical fashion has returned to Earth with honest clothes that have a practical magic about them. Dries Van Noten and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, both masters of color and print, have long been advocates for eccentric everyday clothing; Molly Goddard, Christopher John Rogers, and Matty Bovan are getting on board too with printed denim, expressive knitwear, and over-the-top cotton tops. This spring, retire the medium wash jeans and beige for something a little more fun.
If the popularity of Marine Serre’s moon print base layers are any indication, those of us not wearing sweats are wearing stretchy second skins whether we’re curling up at home or layering for going out. Rick Owens and Thebe Magugu cut diaphanous knitwear that hugs the body, while Charlotte Knowles, Ottolinger, Supriya Lele, Nensi Dojaka, and LaQuan Smith all continued their experiments in mesh. Here they follow in the footsteps of fashion’s original upcycler, Xuly Bët’s Lamine Badian Kouyaté, who is famous for red-seamed stretch bodysuits.
Big time shoulders are not new, but they are not going away either. Balmain and Balenciaga showed the most dramatic versions, while Maison Margiela and Richard Malone offer softer takes on the silhouette that is perfect for cutting through the chaos of the world.
Long layers that drape on the body are the season’s predominant silhouette, seen at Fendi, Jil Sander, Thom Browne, and more. It makes sense: A draped tunic offers plenty of ease without sacrificing grace. Plus, matching sets like Marina Moscone’s cerulean top and trousers are much more comfortable alternative: a suit.
Dainty Day Dresses
These pouf-sleeved, slim dresses harken back to the no-nonsense glamour of the 1940s. There are true tea dresses from Rodarte, Coach, and Alessandra Rich, and more amusing propositions from Batsheva, the queen of quirky frocks. Consider them an at-home must for the pants-averse.
In addition to exuberant prints, this season has also ushered in expressive textures. The boldest, like Versace’s plissés or Coperni’s creases, might pop on Zoom, but the many crafty fabrics and techniques seen at Kenneth Ize, Kiko Kostadinov, and Nanushka are actually designed for the pleasure of the wearer, not the viewer. Doing something nice for oneself is the ultimate indulgence in #timeslikethese.