Chicago Manual of Style—10/08/2010

Mad Men to Minimalism: A fashion week primer

By Jessen O'Brien

For those of you too busy to keep up with the flow of fashion weeks around the world, or for those who want a quick guide to trends that are just catching on or refuse to leave the runway, I’ve taken up your cause. With the New York and Milan fashion weeks last month, and Paris and London’s weeks wrapping up now, here’s a review of the new, the old, and the retro:

Color: Rejoice! After enough black fabric for every Vogue reader to run a funeral home, color is back. This spring, you can look forward to color trickling down from Lanvin and Gucci to H&M, Forever 21, and all the other brands that you can actually buy. But don’t wait for spring to cling to color—American Apparel, always bright and cheerful no matter what the latest trends, isn’t doing so well, so buy now. You might save the store, and if not, at least you can stock up on the basics before it’s au revoir forever.

The ’70s: Chances are you weren’t alive during this time, but enlighten yourself with a quick Google search or watch All the President’s Men and Annie Hall. The silhouettes are long and simple—maxi dresses, jumpsuits, high waists, and nothing too tight. Great news if you’re tall, but shorter fashionistas might have a harder time. Don’t mix this with crazy patterns or color combinations, but when done right your legs will go on and on and on.

Sheer: Although this might not be the best look for class, designers from Ralph Lauren to Oscar de la Renta are sewing in see-through fabrics. Given that we dress for Chicago and not for Miami, pair sheers with a blazer on top and a cami underneath, lest you freeze. Just like with ’70s inspired options, don’t wear anything too tight—think breezy, not sleazy. And I’d recommend only one sheer item per outfit—at least until you’ve mastered the art of hide and seek.

Minimalism: Still in, and will likely be here at least as long as Calvin Klein is around. Plus, it works with ’70s looks, so one feeds off of the other. “Less is more” can also be seen in the continuation of menswear—get rid of frills and frippery when grabbing blazers, oxfords, and button-downs.

The ’50s: Thanks to Mad Men, ’50s style is cool in a way that it’s never been before, not even then. Full, feminine skirts, higher heels, and an emphasis on an hourglass shape can be seen on the runways and in magazines everywhere. For inspiration on how to dress this way during the winter, check out Prada’s latest obsession with big hair, bigger skirts, and lots of tweed. Take my advice and stock up on ’60s gear as well—Now that Betty, Joan, and Peggy have entered a new decade, we’re sure to do the same next year as well.

Enjoy searching for the latest looks. Keep in mind that it’s better to start small (and cheap) before committing to a look. You never know what trends will last and which ones will end up in the back of your closet forever, tucked away after one wear. Although it’s great to be up-to-date with what’s going on in New York and Paris, don’t let new trends take over your personal style. Incorporate what you like into what you already love and you’ll find yourself with pieces that last for years.