Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Carolina Herrera Fall2013: Shanghaied

Something novel happened at Mrs. Herrera’s show Monday morning. With so many designers referencing each other and periods like the now hackneyed 60’s and 70’s, she and her excellent team embraced a fantasy of a long ago time, the 30’s, and specifically a notorious heroine of that period, Wallis Warfield Winfield Simpson Windsor. 

From the very moment Karlie Kloss took absolute control of the runway in her Cheongsam cum English tea gown with that signature hair-do and taught expression I thought, “ That’s Wallis!” The models who followed, all sporting the same hair, some in printed crepe de chine day dresses with innocent black bows at the neck, peaked shouldered radzimir trench coats with glass beaded patterns floating on the surface and blouses with the most artful sleeves that rose from the shoulder and wound seductively down the arm, reminded me immediately of expat Brits and Americans who flocked to Shanghai in the late 20's and 30's where the rules of society were non-existent and all was pure forbidden fun and games. Think Pink Gin mornings, Opium fueled nights and those Sing-Song houses where nice western girls learned the secret arts to amuse and ensnare men.

It was this time and place that I imagined Wallis, on the run from her first unhappy marriage, indulging herself and dreaming of the life she would one day lead. Everything in the show, from a marvelous Herringbone cashmere sweater coat with mink collar over a man-tailored tweed pants suit and fur collared, belted and cuffed skirt suits presaged the style that would become her own. Everything sleek, rail thin and severe but in the most alluring and eye-catching way. Brown abstract printed thistles floating on a stiff silver wrapped ball skirt with a black cashmere sweater sporting a panel of degrade' mink in honey darkening to chocolate at the waist was pure fantasy. Fur appeared again and again in Russian Broadtail the colors of ash and claret and Fox that took on a myriad of shades in boleros and fluffy sleeves on charmeuse blouses. Sable was in liberal use as trim on the hems of ball skirts and along necklines of fitted tops. Sable the color of jade mixed with grey flannel paired with a slim, gored grey skirt that flared discreetly at the knee. Lots of suits in mottled grey and black and others in rich earth colors were just the look Wallis would adopt years in her future.

The evening clothes that evoked her glamorously severe style presaging her love for Chanel and Mainbocher were one after the other perfectly elegant. The blue she would be known for appeared in a velvet gown with printed blossoms exploding down the front and back. Another of ivory chrysanthemums tumbling down a tea colored chiffon gown with a jeweled panel at the waist was languid and seductive. Those same chrysanthemums caught fire with touches of flaming red as silk pyjamas under a sable bolero the color of deep claret. All of these looks would be her wardrobe once she snared her King, toppling the monarchy and taking charge of the worlds of Paris, Antibes, New York and Palm Beach.

Mrs. Herrera's collection was as focused as it was rich in ideas. Whether or not it was a fever dream of a young Wallis the end result was the same. This collection had everything and chic in spades.

*images courtesy of     *video courtesy of

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