THE NEW AUSTERITY CHIC RULING FASHION

27 January 2011

This week, two major events are making an impact on the fashion industry; the first, obviously, is the Paris Haute Couture shows, and the second was the announcement this morning that the UK economy has actually shrunk by 0.5% in the last quarter. A third infuence, the ongoing awards season,  is also playing its part, albeit unknowingly. Now, fashion is a subject we know, but the economy is not something we could claim expert knowledge of. What we do know, however, is that the government's so called 'austerity' measures clearly haven't been working, and that the downturn in economy is having a clear effect both on fashion designers and fashion wearers, especially those in the brightest glare of the public eye.

The look of the couture shows (and indeed what the upcoming month of RTW shows are likely to look like) are intrinsically linked with the economic climate; this is plain to see by casting an eye over the pre-fall shows. Subconsciously, whilst editing the collections, we both picked out sombre, conservative outfits that revealed very little skin, with a very subtle approach to glamour. Indeed in our Golden Globes post of last week we noted a heavy dose of covered-up Austerity Chic. Most of the best-dressed actresses showed skin only from the neck up and wrist down, with only a peep of leg or shoulder.

Valentino prefall

Celine prefall

Lanvin prefall

 

 Givenchy prefall
 Francesco Scognamiglio prefall
These high necked, maxi-length outfits seem totally appropriate for the current fashion mood, and are a better reflection of the moment the world currently finds itself in. In short, covered-up is the new sexy.
This austere feeling also calls to mind the ultra-reserved style of dress worn by Quakers and Amish people, known as 'plain dress'. Again, we are not experts on religous tradition, but some Google research seems to suggest that their method of extreme conservatism and covering of the head is an attempt to be closer to godliness; modest apparel and community conformist standards offer a visual representation of their religion and remove distractions from their faith.
Quaker 'plain dress' circa 1927
Twenties, 30's and 40's fashions are undergoing a major fashion resurgence both on the runway and off the runway on HBO's newest much lauded addition, 'Boardwalk Empire' with its first episode directed by the legendary Marty Scorsese. The costume designer John A. Dunn used the Fashion Institute of Technology's historic tailoring books as inspiration, and only used fabrics available during the period in which the series is set. It's no coincedence that the costume below echoes the shapes and styles of the pre-fall collections; everyone is on the same, austerity-led wavelength.
 A still from HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire'

The mood of subdued glamour continued at Adam and Lanvin, where gowns in muted tones were layered with heavy knitwear. These looks make me (Fash Junior) think of I Capture the Castle - a novel about a formerly wealthy family living in a ramshackle country house, the two daughters wearing their best frocks until they literally fall apart. It's a very English aesthetic, in that we want to put on our finery in the face of adversity, but our innate sense of propriety means we chuck a cardi over the top.

The old theory of hemlines rising in boom time and falling when things go bust seems to hold true in 2011; fashion and the economy are, for the moment, walking hand in hand. Even at the DSquared2 mens fashion show in Milan last week, the Caten twins who design what is normally a flesh-revealing sexy fest took inspiration from the Amish. What the Caten twins begin with their menswear, they usually carry through into their womens collections. DSquared2 women not wearing micro-shorts a bra top and a smile? Now that will be somethoing truly different.
DSquared2 Mens AW 2011

DSquared2 Mens AW11
Likewise at this weeks ongoing Haute Couture showings in Paris, covered up is the order of the day as evidenced at Chanel, Bouchra Jarrar and Armani Prive.

Armani Prive Spring/Summer 2011

Chanel Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2011

 Chanel Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2011
Bouchra Jarrar Spring/Summer 2011
We expect to see fashion's 'Austerity Measures' continue apace as we move further into Autumn/Winter revelations.
Prefall photographs: Courtsey of the designers
Catwalk: Catwalking.com
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