Stealing Style From Granny - Is Conservative the New Radical?
Stealing Style From Granny
Fashion's latest rebellion is co-opting looks from grandma's closet
By ALEXA BRAZILIAN
François Dischinger for The Wall Street Journal; Styling by Paula Knight, Hair & Makeup by Sandrine Van Slee for Oribe at Art Department, Models, from left: Barbara Berger/IMG Models, Bonnie Trompeter/Bella Agency
GENERATION XEROX | Twenty-somethings are taking their cues from 70-somethings, to stylish effect.
Outfit Details: Rochas Jacket, $1,550, barneys.com; Chloé Shirt, $1,795, barneys.com; Pants, $850, Chloé, 646-350-1770; Sunglasses, $190, Stella McCartney, 212-255-1556; Tank Louis Large 18K Yellow Gold, Sapphire and Leather Watch, $9,850, Cartier, 800-227-8437; 18K Yellow Gold Curb-Link Bracelet, $21,500, Verdura, 212-758-3388; Delvaux MM and GM Bags, $4,550 and $6,900, Barneys, 212-826-8900; Shoes, $695, Charlotte Olympia, 212-744-1842
IS CONSERVATIVE THE new radical? The fashion world certainly seems to think so. This season, designers filled their runways with restrained silhouettes that echo the graceful, showing-less-is-more aesthetic of generations past.
Designers are reimagining soignée staples for spring and summer—skirt suits, twin sets, below-the-knee dresses, kitten heels and frame bags—that appear anything but moth-eaten. In fact, fashion's neoconservative coup d'état feels deliciously defiant, given the excessively revealing styles pop culture celebrates. A quick flip through any supermarket tabloid yields an onslaught of oversexed stars and their indelicate fashion choices, which prompted a strict dress code for this year's Grammy Awards. When you factor in over-the-top street style and the all-round oversharing that has become pervasive, the reeled-in restraint of a bygone era looks more and more like a cool, quiet revolution.
The style-set is embracing elegant, covered-up looks usually worn by older women that are anything but moth-eaten. Paula Knight explains the trend on Lunch Break. Photo: Getty Images.
</div>This dignified uprising can be spotted on many of today's most influential style setters—British fashion icon Alexa Chung, Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova and Moda Operandi co-founder Lauren Santo Domingo, to name a few.
"A young girl now doesn't want to dress like her mother; she finds her grandmother much cooler," said Nina Ricci creative director Peter Copping, who designed skirt suits inspired by his own nana. "She wore little smart, tweedy suits. I always had a romantic notion of that." But the designer, who modernized his separates by cutting them in a light-as-air bouclé woven onto organza, also drew inspiration from a much younger source. "Someone told me a story about the [22-year-old] model Eliza Cummings and how when she got her first big money job she went straight out and bought a Chanel suit," said Mr. Copping. "I thought, 'Wow, that's really clued up!' "
What's Old (Lady) Is New Again
Prim with panache, these classics and classics-inspired pieces are the trend's building blocks
F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas (5) Click to view interactive.
In his spring collection, Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier, who has long imprinted the brand with a classic femininity, crafted sheer cardigans, calf-grazing dresses and a coat in the sort of rose print one might find on the walls of a '50s-era powder room. "I never liked the obvious definition of 'sexy,' " said Mr. Maier. "I actually don't even like the word. I prefer a woman to be sensuous and in charge—definitely in charge of what she's wearing."
Twenty-six-year-old designer Wes Gordon agreed. "In serious times, you need serious chic. Anything cute feels bad right now. A grown-up, covered-up silhouette is the anti-cute," said Mr. Gordon, whose signature long-sleeve gowns and full skirts have been worn by bright young things such as Jessica Biel and Rita Ora. His spring collection had a red skirt suit worthy of Nancy Reagan. Among Mr. Gordon's inspirations: a book of Valentino Garavani's designs from the '70s (the house's current designers, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, are also huge proponents of the conservative-but-cool look) and Greta Garbo. "But late Garbo, when she was running around New York City with a popped collar, hiding from people," he said. "It's good to be a little mysterious in the overcrowded, overexposed world we live in now."
What feels new is being a bit quieter and more discerning.Even London's resident bad boy Christopher Kane is of a similar mind. "Ladylike is the ultimate sexiness," said the designer. "It's clean, elegant and in control. The famous saying, 'It's the quiet ones you need to watch,' definitely applies to this style."
Although the movement centers on mature silhouettes, it's the accessories that carry it over into phenomenon territory. From the delicate stampede of pointy kitten heels and sensible block-heeled sandals to the flood of frame bags and collar-grazing necklaces, little touches are capable of creating big changes in attitude.
"There is a shift in sensibility happening now—shoppers are moving away from conspicuous It-bags, the vertiginous platform heel and gaudy in-your-face jewels," said Kate Davidson Hudson, co-founder of the newly launched accessories shopping site Editorialist. "What feels new is being a bit quieter and more discerning—having your subtle gold studs, cat-eye glasses, proper box bag and most importantly, the mid-heel shoe."
Zuma Press (Herrera); WireImage/Getty Images (Radziwll)
THE ORIGINALS | Lee Radziwill, left, and Carolina Herrera
Indeed, low-riding heels—from Louis Vuitton's Magic Square pumps to Miu Miu's squat, crystal-encrusted patent-leather numbers—have been star sellers for spring. There has also been an attendant uptick in popularity for the shoe brands that your grandmother and great-grandmother loved. Roger Vivier, the brand known for its low, pilgrim-buckle pump made famous by Catherine Deneuve in "Belle de Jour," seems more popular than ever, both for its shoes and the book on its 75-plus-year history released last month with publisher Rizzoli. Ferragamo, another perennial ladies-who-lunch favorite, is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Vara, its sweetly iconic gold bow-topped shoe, with a new campaign featuring of-the-moment women such as Ms. Santo Domingo and Chiara Clemente wearing the classic, dainty-heeled slippers. As of this month, they can be customized to one's liking on the brand's website with a choice of color combinations and materials, and the option to monogram the soles.
One longtime Ferragamo Vara fan is Ms. Chung. "I think one of the first times I was photographed, I literally sneaked into a Topshop [fashion] show and I was wearing a cardigan, some white tights and Ferragamo heels," recalled Ms. Chung, host of the music TV show Fuse News on the Fuse channel, and author of "It," a book on her personal style and inspirations (out from Penguin in late October).
She's also emblematic of a certain brand of young-fogy dressing that has become popular with the next generation of taste-makers, including 27-year-old sister-designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, whose discreetly polished and structured bag designs for their label The Row have become industry favorites.
The Granny Pack
Some of today's most-admired style-setters are models of restraint
WENN; Getty Images (2); Billy Farrell Agency; StockholmStreetStyle
From left: The Row designer Ashley Olsen; Model Elena Perminova; TV host Alexa Chung; Moda Operandi co-founder Lauren Santo Domingo; Fashion editor Giovanna Battaglia
The youthful duo's austere clothes have also become the ne plus ultra for tasteful, urbane women of all vintages. For spring, the designers showed ankle-grazing silk skirts and belted jackets in classic shades that looked simultaneously old-school and modern.
Earlier this week, one of the biggest events on the fashion calendar took place. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute ball celebrated the opening of the exhibit "PUNK: Chaos to Couture." The annual gala has long been considered the sartorial event of the year, and the choice of punk as this year's theme feels particularly poignant. With its shredded T-shirts, creative facial piercings and mohawks, the riotous aesthetic, which peaked in the late '70s and early '80s, couldn't be further from the clean and sober silhouettes surrounding us now, but the motivations behind the two share some DNA.
Fresh from a fitting for the dress she'd wear to the ball (a Victorian-inspired, high-necked, black velvet lace number with sheer panels, from Canadian designer Erdem Moralioglu), Ms. Chung meditated on her demure choice. "It's quite conservative, but this is, to me, more punk," she said. "More people will be showing up in skin-tight, see-through garments, so I feel like I'm rebelling."(wsj.com)
Large Avatars for Everyone!
Last week I went to a local festival, and I spotted lots of young women in long coats resembling the one in the second picture (only with long sleeves, so even more covered-up).
I must say I quite like it, it's very refreshing compared to skin and sexiness. But being inspired by - and looking like your granny are two different things, the line can be very thin sometimes. I guess it's all about attitude and charisma.
I don't think its "granny" (whatever that is) but women wanting more comfort, ease, and a feeling of protection from leering eyes; perhaps it is part of the long movement of women trying to gain equality - remember not too long ago pants were introduced for women. We're still behind on the shoes, but now I see a lot of women choosing loose pants and tops and brands making these clothes. I think a lot more women now want to benefit themselves in their clothing choices as opposed to dressing for men.
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