You couldn’t have watched the Oscars for its fashion content and not have thought that the eveningwear industrial complex could use a little disruption. Plenty of pretty dresses, but among the non-mistakes, only Janelle Monáe’s sparkly Ralph Lauren was remotely interesting. One would be hard pressed to deliberately put together an assemblage of more boring clothes.
Vera Wang didn’t have a major show pony in the race on Sunday night. She does have deep experience with evening, including huge celebrity exposure. For fall, Wang focused on trying to advance what “evening could be,” she said during a backstage at the grand James B. Duke house on Fifth Avenue. “I was looking at something a little bit lighter, a little bit easier, something with a charm and a lightness, a little athletic and esoteric.”
Charm and lightness, check and check. Yet there’s a strangeness to Wang’s work that’s invariably compelling and — at its best — fabulous, each gesture carefully considered for depth of message. What other crossover ready-to-wear/bridal designer uses more color in the latter than the former? This time Wang went to rtw town with color, putting her oddly in sync with one of the season’s major trends. She showed lavender, gray, yellow and red in gentle, barely there chiffon and sculptural tulle ruffles for camisoles and corsets with diaphanous trains, grounding her otherworldly creatures by contrasting their ethereal fare with black boy shorts or trousers. She also showed photo-printed floral stretch bodysuits and long skirts for a sportif spin on evening, some looks fully in black — how could she not? It’s her thing. And she details looks with out-of-context details, wondrous in their strangeness and co-habitation. It’s rare that varsity stripes and studded S&M harnesses coexist on the same runway, let alone in the same look, but Wang is intrepid in her experimental fervor.
Will the Hollywood set prove as bold? Probably not. And to be honest, the overall market for filmy tulle corsets over shorts probably isn’t all that deep. Nobody ever said disruption is easy, but on Wang’s runway, at least it looked great.