Backstage before his show, Jonathan Simkhai’s models were dressed and ready to go, milling about and chatting while waiting for their turns on the seamless where the fall look book was being shot. One girl wore a webby, pearl-and-crystal studded lace dress. When an interloper commented on its loveliness, she agreed, noting, “This is what the Sparkle app is for!”
The clothes worked a charming masculine-feminine fusion, the latter the primary takeaway. Simkhai romanced the trappings of men’s wear — traditional suitings and shirtings — into off-the-shoulder beauties with Basque cuts and poetic gigot sleeves. He digressed from tailoring with sensual slipdresses, flat boots adding a tough of touch to their silk-and-lace delicacy. Beyond the obvious — beautiful young women dressed and made up to look their beautiful best, nothing resonated as politically message-y.
Au contraire, according to the designer. While researching tailoring, Simkhai came across pictures of the Gibson Girl. Self-possessed and confident as drawn by her creator, Charles Dana Gibson, she came to represent the ideal of young American womanhood as the 19th century bridged into the 20th, and eventually, into the watershed moment of the Suffragette movement. “She brought confidence to [her generation],” Simkhai said. “Now more than ever, it’s so important for women to be strong and confident, to use their power, especially with the midterms coming up.”
Whether a bustier bodysuit with frilled sleeves and lace-appliquéd, double-slit Prince of Wales tweed skirt telegraphs get-out-and-vote is unclear. In the campaign for pretty, it’s a runaway win.