According to the oft-quoted adage, as stock markets dip, so do the hemlines. Well, perhaps there is still some life in the old theory. Propagated by the economist George Taylor and known as the ‘hemline index’, the theory suggests that there is a direct correlation between skirt lengths and economic growth. We are living in quite sobering times, it’s true, with the economy still in recovery mode, and there was definitely something different about the hemlines during the Spring/Summer 2011 runway shows. Hemlines were dipping, all the way to the floor in some cases, and necklines were rising, leaving pretty much everything to the imagination. And while it’s true that in today’s fashion world there really are no rules, and pretty much whatever you are looking for you can find (the Valentino and Christian Dior collections featured skirts that were short, short, short), there is a definite trend these days towards more modest dress.
Modest does not, however, mean not sexy. In fact, the sex appeal is more subtle, not so in-your-face, and of a somewhat more intellectual nature. Interestingly, however, the soberness of the cuts this season was often offset by bold colors and whimsical prints, demonstrating that fashion can be both a reflection of, and reaction to, the current societal mood.
Jil Sander’s flawless collection included jewel-toned skirts like tangerine orange and this season’s ubiquitous royal blue, and color-blocked dresses that reached to the floor, some fitting like pencil skirts and others huge and billowing. The high-waisted pants were equally roomy, while the expertly-cut harem pants were wide at the leg and tapered at the ankle.
Marc Jacobs also presented floor length skirts and maxi dresses drawing on this season’s affinity for 1970s fashion. His bohemian chic collection included full, mid-length peasant skirts, and wide leg pants, in colors such as electric orange and blood red. Although to say the collection was modest may be a bit of a stretch, for the voluminous shapes were often offset by the use of sheer fabrics.
The same can be said for Brioni, where the delicate and feminine shapes of calf-length dresses were counterbalanced with see-through lace. Alessandro dell’Acqua’s perfectly tailored collection of oversized coats, flowing dresses and slinky floor-length skirts was given a wonderfully casual, and more modest, air when paired with flat leather sandals.
Narisco Rodriguez’s collection was a showcase of minimalist perfection, with the black silk, just-above-the-ankle skirts reminiscent of the ‘simpler times’ of the early 90s. A flowy, floral pattern dress brought the grunge times back full force, while the simple black midi shift that opened the show is simply a must-have for any woman who fancies minimal and modest elegance.
The newest collection from Nepalese designer Prabal Gurung’s was one of the most impressive of the season, showcasing the best of the spring trends: bright color blocking, shocking whites, pleasant neutrals, calf-length pencil dresses in metallic sheers and flowing silks, and stiff high collared shirts. The former design director of Bill Blass has had his own line for only four seasons now, but he is one to watch for his beautifully elegant understanding of women’s fashion.
This season’s fashion was in essence one of contrast. As we’ve seen, bright colors dominated many of the collections, yet so did neutrals. And while many designers have produced more sober collections, others are shortening the skirts and heightening the heels as much as possible. I suppose that like the stock market, fashion designers thrive on fluctuation, yet as someone who came of age in the early 90s I am happy to see the return of more sober fashion choices and look forward to donning my rationally elegant Narisco Rodriguez dress this spring.