Is Off the New On? The Most Provocative Fashion Trend Now

Are you a bit confused about the spring ready-to-wear trends for women and what they’re telling us about the times we’re currently living in? If so, you’re not alone. Here at Dandelion Chandelier, we’ve been reading the fashion press, prowling the sales floors of the great luxury stores of Manhattan, and surfing online. And we have a confession to make.

We don’t get it.

Or maybe we do get it, and we just don’t like it.

Most of the “hot” looks for women that we’re being told are the new-new thing are, in our view, just off. What do we mean by “off?” We mean: askew, off-kilter, undone, disheveled, quirky and sometimes just plain goofy.

Specifically? Asymmetrical handkerchief hemlines; baby-doll dresses; see-through blouses and skirts; dresses pierced by cut-outs; crop tops; one-shouldered tops; tops that are meant to appear to be falling off and secured only by the tiniest of straps; long trailing sleeves; corsets worn on top of blouses; shirting that is half polka dot and half striped; deliberately mismatched top-stitching on pants; ‘80s-era big hair bow headbands; harem pants; cropped flared-leg trousers – and that’s just the apparel.

We’ve already written about how spring accessories have gone wild, with 6-inch platform sandals and mismatched earrings, shoe-laces and shoes the new order of the day.

In the window of Louis Vuitton’s Manhattan flagship, one can currently find a deconstructed grey wool suit with a refined white blouse that looks like what a businesswoman caught in flagrante delicto with her hot assistant and didn’t quite get refastened in time would look like to an intruder. Really? Is this what people think grown women should wear in public? Pair that with Gucci’s continued journey to Fantasy Land and FENDI’s latest delivery, inspired by Marie Antoinette at Versailles, and it raises a collective Huh???

Compare that to the daily headlines in recent weeks, and you’d be understandably confused. Are these serious times we’re living in? Or is this a moment to just let everything hang loose? Is it ribbons and bows? Or crossbows?

To us it sure seems like a time to be “on:” alert, focused, pulled-together, covered-up, and prepared to either fight or flee. Instead, we’re being told to bare various vulnerable body parts – all day every day, not just on a balmy spring evening.

And maybe we’re being overly cynical, but it appears that women are the only ones being steered toward this wardrobe of vulnerable, illogical, unserious, difficult-to-pull off and tough-to-explain looks. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that men’s suits and ties are getting wider (making men appear to be larger and more dominant than perhaps they really are, and certainly contributing to their swagger and self-assurance). So are designers falling prey to the impulse to distract and weaken women? Are we being deliberately sidelined? The wardrobe requirements for a harem or a call girl ring would not be dissimilar to these.

Seriously: it has been said in the past that fashion trends mimic the global zeitgeist – at least that of the elites. Miniskirts used to be for times when people were feeling flush, and maxi-dresses and thick-soled boots were for times when there was fear of economic distress. Sheerness, lightness, and whimsical psychedelic prints were for moments when we felt collectively safe and free to experiment – simple bold colors and graphic T-shirts were for moments when we wanted to say something, loudly, and ensure that we’d be heard.

We debated amongst ourselves the dichotomy between what we’re seeing from fashion this spring and what we’re feeling after hearing the daily news, and we could not reach consensus.

Some of us attribute this trend of whimsy-gone-wild to the fact that designer fashion – despite all the talk of see-it-now, buy-it-now, and wear-it-now – lags the news by at least six months. It’s quite possible that when these clothes were being designed, the world was assuming that the US, UK and Germany would all be led this spring by strong women inclined toward sober traditional business suits. Perhaps, this line of thinking goes, with the alpha females in charge, the mood would demand the opposite look on the rest of us: “feminine,” undisciplined and carefree. Clearly that movie didn’t end the way “everyone” thought it would, and perhaps fashion is just temporarily out of step. We’ll see if the fall 2017 collections turn out any differently, or if leading designers are doubling down on the dishabille.

The other side of the argument is, of course, that the elites actually want their women to be creatures of the wind, insubstantial and therefore effectively sidelined from the global conversation. What better way to weaken someone’s powers than to say that being chic demands falling out of your shirt? Or wearing cropped pants that make you look vaguely clownish? Or donning platform shoes with six-inch heels, rainbow stripes and jagged soles? It’s tough to take your place at the table when you have to keep checking to be sure that you’re not inadvertently flashing people (or shaking with cold because your shoulder is bared, or struggling to eat properly because your sleeves are so long that you’re rendered effectively non-functional).

And yes, we get it: fashion is supposed to be fun, and spring is the time when we all traditionally lighten up, and a woman can be tough no matter what she’s wearing (we’re looking at you, Beyoncé). But still. Is this really the message we want to be sending to each other right now about female power and influence and what it means to dress like a fashion-savvy woman?

Despair not. Even in the midst of all the deconstruction, the good news is that if you hunt carefully, you’ll find some iconic pieces this spring that will allow you to appear cool, confident, and fully dressed. Pulled-together but not uptight. Femme but not fragile. Here’s what’s likely to earn a place in our closets this spring:

Outerwear: There are some gorgeous new grown-up coats this season, including fantastic offerings from Chanel; we also spotted some style girls on Madison Avenue this week wearing black or grey feather-light cashmere capes that cloaked them in mystery, offered some protection, and didn’t weigh them down. Nice.

Leather: Bottega Veneta is offering colored leather skirts and dresses that nail the right balance between purpose and whimsy (see their iconic ads with Lauren Hutton).

Crisp white shirts: Alaia and McQueen are offering ruffled white shirts that are both romantic and functional – and they have two sleeves that both end at the wrist! Imagine that.

Graphic prints in black and white: Florals may not be the order of the day right now – happily there are some strong geometric prints that will get the job done. YSL has a great black A-line dress covered in white stars; Dolce & Gabbana is up to its usual craziness, but the brand’s current delivery of black and white polka dots on dresses, sweaters and skirts is both playful and classic. Louis Vuitton is pairing fragile dresses with boots that mean business: sturdy-soled and sleek black with just a swirl of strong color on the heel.

Elegant Skirts: Valentino has magnificent skirts full of movement and color that channel Grace Kelly in Rear Window, and can be made hard or soft depending on how you style them; ditto Carolina Herrera, who has made this look her timeless signature.

Bold Color Combinations: we’re sure you’ve heard that pink in all hues – from pale to almost purple – is the key color this spring. The trick is to go for the right juxtaposition of rose tones with something more serious. Pink and black is a palette we return to year after year, and Valentino totally nails that this spring. Val also has some stunning looks in pink, burgundy and rust. Their shoes are grey, berry, dusty pink and black, and the overall effect is one of refined optimism.

If we’ve learned anything recently, it’s that what we wear – even on our heads – can send a strong message to the world. So exactly what are you trying to say this spring?

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