“Looking the part” — an age-old distinction in reference to those in positions of power or authority. Today, it’s one of the culture’s many loaded touchstones: Who’s to say what look is right for any part, and what does a “part” look like anyway?

Deny as we might, the notion persists, even as standards of situational dressing continue to fade. While preparing the fall Fendi collection, Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi considered what manner of dressing makes sense for accomplished, chic women. They thus worked fashion’s classic feminine-masculine dialogue into something smart and fresh, in Fendi’s words, “Romantic femininity for a powerful woman.” Along the way, they developed a concept almost unheard of today — daytime glamour, highly polished and highly self-assured, yet not at all self-conscious.

The core dichotomy came in the juxtaposition of traditional men’s fabrics and precise tailoring — shoulders! — and fine handkerchief embroideries of the sort women used to do at home, Fendi noted. It started with Lagerfeld’s cuts. To him, silhouette is everything. His new shoulder, strong, square but highly manageable, anchored impeccably cut natural-waist dresses and skirt suits, many flaunting collar embroideries and a demonstrative “butterfly lapel.” One beauty: a belted, double-breasted jacket over pleated peplum and straight skirt, all in different men’s wear patterns. Numerous looks featured a “shoulder bag” — no, not that kind, but a tippet — some lightweight, some voluptuous, to further emphasize the shoulders.

While the tailoring dominated, the collection took an overtly soft turn with pleated silk dresses embroidered with flowers and the initial “F.” In fact, logos, both archival and new featured throughout in a significant way, including on some versions of a new, softer iteration of the Peekaboo bag, the Peekaboo X-Lite.

Despite Lagerfeld’s eternal proclamations of “never look back,” the collection had a distinctive waft of the Forties, invoked with deft subtlety. It provided a perfect reference, as it telegraphed via beautiful, inviting clothes the core message of feminine self-reliance.

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