Today marks the Autumn Equinox! By far my favorite season of the year. The briskness in the air, the spicier and muskier scents tantalize the senses, and in certain parts of the world the foliage changes color. Not here, in Arizona, but in other areas on earth. I have seen it! It is not the myth Arizonians like to tell; for which, by the way, they claim only two seasons actually exist; “hot and hotter.” Sadly, that is pretty accurate for the Valley portion of the state (essentially the Phoenix Metropolitan area and the Golden Corridor region).
I digress, Autumn is the perfect time for transitions to the cooler weather. More importantly, it means–FASHION! Yaaaay! I went to my trusted trend source via style.com to scope out the last and greatest for the upcoming season. What is more, is I try to interpret how a 19th century maven would translate our modern trends to her day. It is sort of like the present imitating a past that reimages the future. Did you catch all that?
Below I have listed a few select trends from the dozen mentioned on style.com that best suit my on-going experiment, not including the Eighties Redeux, The Pantsuit, Patchwork, the Slip Dress, and Shine On. All quotes are taken directly from the site.
World of Interiors/Moroccan/Brocades
“Designers pulled from a world of interiors for fall, referencing fabrics and motifs that usually find their home in a chic living room.”
Now, this is very much in line with the 19th century, as many of their fabric patterns look questionably like your grandmother’s sofa. For illustration purposes, I found a lovely blue brocade (Notice I harmonized with the blue of the dress below with that of the modern Chanel?) to illustrate how this the trend as it would have translated in the 1800s.
The Floor Duster Coat
“Last season’s statement coat trend has legs for fall, quite literally, and hemlines on the most eye-catching outerwear tumbled to the floor.”
This is certainly a fashion staple from the past. Long coats were a way to protect the intricate garments. The actual “duster” came into fashion during the advent of the automobile, during the late 1800s, early 1900s. This is a perfect example of how technology begets fashion begets technology. For the confused as to why a long coat was even needed, the first cars were open-air, think of convertibles, but the idea was a motorized “horseless carriage.” The early vehicular designs were not terribly aesthetic nor originally built for comfort nor safety. Needless to say, these automobiles kicked up a lot “dust” back at their passengers. A whole new ensemble was created to keep up appearances and still enjoy the ride. A hat, goggles (yes, GOGGLES), and a long “duster” coat. BAM! There is your history lesson for the day!
Touches of Fur/Mink/Fox/Mongolian Lamb
“The monster furs that percolated on the street style blogosphere this winter were chopped and screwed for fall, and pieces of mink, fox, and Mongolian lamb fur were collaged onto everything.”
A unisex fashion Fall standard if I ever heard of one. Fur in present day, of course, carries the connotation of “murderer” and conjures PETA riots. In previous centuries it was a sign of status, because clothes made the man. Fashion was how people identified themselves in the social hierarchy. Trims in general are always classy, whether it is faux fur or cording or any other sort of adornment. Trims add contrast, texture, pops of color and outline the garment, thus drawing the eye by creating interest. Fur trims in general served a more practical purpose as it kept the openings of the garment “warmer” near the pulse points, the wrists, the neck, and core/body.
“Be it an elegant high-neck ruffled collar or the melancholy elegance of black lace, a Victorian mood pervaded the runways.”
I am tempted to write: “Obviously” and just move on to the next trend. However, it is interesting to note what we equate with Victorian fashion, like the high necks, ruffles, bows, laces, yolks, poet sleeves and even the bustle are actually trends of the later third of the 19th century. Prior to the 1880s high necks were not the norm, in fact in the early part of the century, known as the Regency period, empire waists were all the rage, followed by portrait off-the-shoulder necklines, afterwards the flat front collared shirts buttoned at the throat, to the square front, then the high neck we all know and love burst on to the scene.
Statement White Blouse
“There’s something so alluring about the deceptive simplicity of a white blouse.”
I concur! We 19th Century Moderns, call them Shirtwaists. Crisp, simple, elegant, and a billion ways to design it. Ironic, no? The 1800s version leans toward vertical embellishments rather than the horizontal as see in the beautiful example from Oscar de la Renta. The shirtwaist gained some notoriety from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. Basically the managers and owners locked the doors from the outside to the building to prevent employees from taking unauthorized breaks and stealing items. The locking of the doors was a relatively common practice of the time, but in this instance almost 150 people, mainly immigrant women, died due to asphyxiation and attempting to jump from as high as 10 floors to save themselves. The tragedy spurred and forced safety practices and legislation for factory workers.
“From dragons unfurling down the front of a gown to crimson columns of lace, embroidered and limitless amounts of gold—the runways were awash in Chinese influence this season.”
The allure of the Orient is never far off for most designers, then or now. The vibrant hues, the jaw dropping silk brocades, Mandarin collars, the frog closures, the exotic avian, flora, and dragon patterns, tassels, and intricate folding or draping techniques provide a wealth of inspiration. Nope, we, Westerners, never tire of it. The Victorians had their own love affair with China and took a much more European approach to the trend, but the inspiration is still very easily recognizable.
“The most touchable of textiles got a very fall-ready makeover this season, in loose wide-legged trousers or tassle-closed capes and wrap skirts, plunging jumpsuits at or sleek coats.”
The most sumptuous of winter fabrics, right up there with fur! During the 19th century velvet was a neutral fabric that either sex could wear. Men usually wore it in jacket form, while women had their pick of every combination and permutation. Again, to create a more one-to-one repetition of the modern and the historic, I chose a black Regency garment to display; really a mourning dress from the 1823-1825 Scotland. Due to the depth of the hue, this woman was in deep mourning, or in the early stages of grief. Thus said, the velvet fabric choice must mean she is either entering the next phase of mourning or she is very well-to-do. By the addition of the silver grey trim, I would hedge to say it was the later and not the former.