WHAT’S THE point of fashion now, in our collective state of semi-isolation? No one really cares if you wear the same WFH sweater five days in a row. But doing so is a sad, stale reminder of our last six months of stagnation. At The Wall Street Journal, we’re as tired of focusing on sweatpants and masks as you are. Yet the carefree past, in which we’d herald fantastic trends (gothic frocks, anyone?) feels distant and increasingly irrelevant.
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Thankfully, there’s a happy medium between frivolity and frumpiness, and fashion can help both men and women achieve it. Just as it’s exhilarating to go back to the movies, albeit at a drive-in theater, we recommend inching back toward a world where fashion matters. Start exactly where you are: on the couch. From its confines, you can catch the 1950s high-waisted pants on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” and Princess Diana’s steroidal 1980s wedding gown on “The Crown.”
Though rather bizarre given that they were largely virtual, the recently concluded spring 2021 shows also inspired us. “A piece of clothing serves the role of making you live better,” said Italian designer Miuccia Prada during a conversation with her new co-creative director, Raf Simons, after the September debut of their joint spring Prada collection. That’s a concept designers championed for the coming season. The Row, for example, proposed stylish pragmatism in the form of comfy-looking pleated trousers, oversize shirting and a floppy tan trench coat. And at Fendi, men trotted out in buoyant short suits—blazer up top, Bermudas below—pushing the so-called “business mullet” into high fashion.
Embracing fashion in any of its forms reminds us that the future holds more than remote schooling and stacks of hoodies. It signifies that we’re prepared to cautiously press “play” on the next chapter. Here, 15 reasons why men’s and women’s fashion and beauty are making us excited to get dressed again this fall.
1. Why Not Try Walking in Heels Again?
If you’ve spent months pattering around the house barefoot, merely relearning how to walk in a fabulous pair of high heels can elevate your mood. Once you remember how to balance, try wearing a style like this pointy, block-heeled pair from Italian brand Gianvito Rossi when striding to your next socially distant coffee date.
2. The Mini Man Bag Is Finally Here in All Its Glory
”Man Bag” stopped being an oxymoron years ago. Thanks to fall’s mini designs, like this leather version by Jil Sander, guys can now effortlessly and handsomely carry a few essentials—phone, keys, a bottle of hand sanitizer that’s too big for a jeans pocket—while running afternoon errands.
3. Mask Necklaces: They’re Like Glasses Chains, Only Cooler
We’re all accustomed to masks now, but keeping track of them is another story. So the emergence of cute mask necklaces that safeguard your PPE around your neck is a welcome trend. The daisy-beaded one from Roxanne Assoulin, shown here, is a whimsical option. We are also fans of Mociun’s mask chains made of tiny freshwater pearls.
4. Your Old Levi’s Are Back in Style
Valentino collaborated with Levi’s on a unisex version of the venerated San Francisco denim brand’s 517 boot-cut jean, first introduced in 1969. Until this collaborative design comes out in spring 2021, you can just reach into the depths of your closet to pull out your own vintage version. Or if you threw them out in a bout of Marie Kondo-inspired ruthlessness, head on over to eBay or Etsy to score a similar classic style.
5. Inspired Collaborations Abound
Designer brands are feeling friendly this fall, launching covetable collaborations with sometimes unexpected partners. French basics favorite A.P.C. teamed up with actress Catherine Deneuve on a mini-collection of womenswear classics named for her on-screen roles; Uniqlo will delight minimalists with the upcoming return of +J, its affordably priced range by German designer Jil Sander; MM6 Maison Margiela released quintessentially quirky pancake-shaped puffer coats with the North Face (pictured, above); and the patterned fleeces and sherpa-lined topcoats from Todd Snyder and L.L.Beanwill keep dapper guys warm whether they’re hiking the Adirondacks or dining outside in Manhattan.
6. The Technicolor Rise of Christopher John Rogers
New York-based Christopher John Rogers, who won the CFDA’s American Emerging Designer of the Year award in September, has been drawn to radiant hues his whole life. In fact, his earliest fashion memory is swathing himself in sunny yellow for his fourth-grade class picture. “I was finally able to dress myself, so I wore head-to-waist yellow, black pants and yellow shoes…it was the brightest color I could find,” said Mr. Rogers, 26. He cites churchgoers who dressed in “head-to-toe” color during his childhood in Louisiana as vivid inspiration. Since launching his line in 2018, he’s injected that vibrancy into his joyful, high-octane clothes (think wafting, out-to-here ball gowns and sculptural iridescent skirts), which have such celebrity fans as Tracee Ellis Ross, Zendaya and Michelle Obama. Working in his Soho studio during the shutdown, Mr. Rogers dreamed up a vivacious spring 2021 offering while sketching with a box of crayons. Comprising supremely wearable rainbow-striped knits; a crystal-dotted blouse; slick retro suiting and something Mr. Rogers called a “couch floral” print, which was splashed across a ruffled shirt dress and a cotton corset, the collection will be available for preorder later this month on his new e-commerce platform (christopherjohnrogers.com). Of his confections, Mr. Rogers said, “You know that ideal ‘you’ that you see in your head? Hopefully these clothes can help you get a little bit closer to that.”
7. Finally, a Statement Bag Worth Buying
Handbags haven’t exactly been top of mind this year, but now there’s one worth splurging on: Gucci’s Jackie 1961. A reimagining of the hobo style that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis toted around Manhattan, this nifty pocketbook is available in an Instagram-friendly mini size and a larger version that can be worn crossbody. The nouveau-retro hybrid’s first adherents are far more 2020 than 1961, notably the style iconoclasts Harry Styles and Megan Rapinoe.
8. There’s Bold New Blood at Big Brands
Leave it to fashion to unleash a quartet of seismic shifts while the world’s on pause. At Milan fashion week in September, Belgian designer Raf Simons made his eagerly anticipated (albeit digitally broadcast) Prada debut as Miuccia Prada’s co-creative director. This merging of minds produced a collection rooted in the idea of useful uniforms, built from A-line skirts,undefined voluminous coats, swiss-cheese sweaters and outsize logos—a throwback to Prada’s ’90s prowess. Not to be outdone, Fendi last month surprised with news that British-born Kim Jones, Dior’s streetwear-leaning men’s artistic director, will step into the late Karl Lagerfeld’s boots to design the Italian brand’s women’s, haute couture and fur collections. During Paris fashion week, American Matthew M. Williams of 1017 ALYX 9SM unveiled his first efforts as Givenchy’s creative director, a brooding, utilitarian lineup bedecked with heavy hardware. And Reebok has escalated its four-year collaboration with Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, appointing the New York talent as its vice president of creative direction.
9. The Ever-Practical Barbour Is Cool Once More
The sturdy Barbour jacket—a favorite of Anglo style icons like Prince Charles—is suddenly surging into fashion again thanks to some high-wattage collaborations. Streetwear pillar Supreme whipped up a fierce leopard-pattern slicker, while Japanese outdoor marvels And Wander made a yolk-yellow model and Copenhagen’s Norse Projects released elongated parkas in colors like bright safety orange. If these flavors sound too spicy for you, grab one in the classic olive like Prince Charles. You might even have one in your closet already, in which case congrats, you’re on trend!
10. Blazers Will Be Back, As Per Paris Fashion Week
Don’t toss your blazers in the donation pile just yet. They may be taunting your WFH self from the closet now, but according to the spring 2021 collections shown in Paris, they will rise again. Brands including Dries Van Noten (pictured, right), Paco Rabanne and Chloe all proposed laid-back versions. Think of them as a light layer that can significantly chic up your trip to
11. Upcycled Clothes Are Actually Appealing Now
New York designer Dashiel Brahmann got crafty during quarantine, hand making shirts and jackets out of aging fabrics like a floral linen tablecloth from the 1960s or a clementine-colored towel. Mr. Brahmann is part of a swelling pack of designers making clothes that actually look quite sharp from repurposed materials. British designer Priya Ahluwalia produced vibrant patchwork shirts from recycled scraps of pre-worn clothes, Sweden’s Acne Studios is using its own excess materials to make smart pieces like a houndstooth blazer with a camel sleeve (pictured, above) and Paris’s Marine Serre concocts fresh clothes from castoff silk scarves and bedsheets. Rest assured, the results are more fashionable than they sound.
12. Men’s Shoes Have Stepped Out of the Shadows
Early in isolation, our leather shoes entered hibernation. Plush house slippers or squishy
took their place, if we wore shoes at all. Recently, though, brands such as Bottega Veneta (pictured, right) and G.H. Bass & Co. have released lively loafers that balance the polish of business shoes with the languor of house shoes. While not for everyone (J.W. Anderson’s gold-chained mules might only be for Mr. T), these revamped hard-bottoms make a strong case for sliding back into a sturdy shoe.
13. A Piece of Jewelry History Gets a Bright New Upgrade
Having adorned the wrists of fierce and fabulous women since 1970—think Diana Ross, Sophia Loren and Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot—the Elsa Peretti Bone Cuff celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall. To commemorate the occasion, Tiffany & Co. is releasing the classic cuff in new iridescent hues and with hand-carved stone inlays, like a silver version set with a turquoise teardrop (pictured, left).
14. There’s a Blitz of Beauty Launches
Clear some space in your medicine cabinet because fall brings a bounty of new beauty products. Former J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons has introduced false eyelashes that don’t look like part of a Halloween costume. Tom Ford’s new fragrance, Bitter Peach (pictured, above), promises sweetness and spice. And if, after months of makeuplessness, you’re ready for a maximalist visage, fragrance brand Byredo is launching a conceptual beauty range featuring a lips-cheeks-eyes hybrid “Color Stick” in 16 shimmery shades.
15. Spectacularly Stylish TV Is in Large Supply
The well-clad characters from this fall’s TV lineup mean you can soak up some serious sartorial inspiration from the couch. Slender T-shirts, high-waisted trousers and primary-colored hot pants punctuate the retro style of shows like HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” (pictured, right) and FX’s “Fargo.” Later this month comes Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” an eerie-looking miniseries with some very deco-ish dresses. And in November, the fourth season of “The Crown” debuts, with all of its opulent aristocratic fineries. For some modern zest, look to the youthful style of “We Are Who We Are,” which showcases brooding teens in three-striped track pants and hard-to-find fashion “grails” such as a 14-year-old Comme des Garçons blazer.
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