An expanse of shiny tiles transformed Thom Browne’s show space into a big, pristine pool. On the far wall a four-columned pergola, itself in flat, tiled relief, rose up like a mini Parthenon in homage to two style goddesses of yore. “It’s Slim-Aarons-meets-David-Hockney-meets-fun-pool-party,” Browne noted backstage. Aarons famously photographed C.Z. Guest at her house in Palm Beach, and it’s her pool alluded to by the set.
This was a pool party for bouffanted gals who don’t want to get their hair wet. That became abundantly clear when the models came out, each in a voluminous cocoon of a beach cover-up with matching bubble bonnet and bag in flashy florals.
The models lined up facing the audience, half on one side, half on the other, and disrobed to reveal various suits and separates underneath. Then, a pair of mysterious beings — cats, or perhaps garden sprites dressed as cats? (they wore the designer’s snazzy men’s shorts suits and furry masks) — took command of the rows, giving each model a gentle shove when it was her turn to walk the perimeter of the runway. As this went on, fancifully feathered toucans cleared the space of coats and beach bags left on the poolside deck.
The clothes proved perfect for this midsummer’s day dream sequence. They weren’t suits and separates at all, but one-piece dresses elaborately conceived and executed to trick the eye. They utilized every tailoring and dressmaker technique imaginable to stitch together pretend multipiece outfits that riffed on just about every polished, upper-crust sartorial trope imaginable. There were long jackets, short jackets, cutaway tails, three-piece suits, a tennis-anyone sweater girl moment, a post-schoolgirl look in green gingham with pleated skirt over pleated skirt, and countless others, every one a jewel of imagination made real.
Each model walked the perimeter of the fake pool and returned to her place. When properly realigned, they all slipped out of their dresses zipped top-to-bottom in the back (à la Brown’s most recent men’s show) to reveal pin-up-worthy swimsuits striped in red, white and blue. The models sat. They posed. They looked great.
Unlike the melancholy of last season’s post-Depression urban garden stroll, here Brown spun an upbeat tale of fashion preoccupation and indulgent peacockery. Not to get too deep, because this was tons of fun, but it had that sense it held a mirror to the street-style scene outside of every show, populated as it was by characters whose afternoon at the pool involved three levels of costume change. Madcap to say the least.
Did I mention that there was also a shimmery silver goddess in dog headgear, and that the photographers were asked to wear white coats, just like the staff chez Margiela and those other men in white coats? So was this an outrageously glam pool party, or an outrageously glam imaginary pool party at Bellevue? Either way, it was crazy fun, and crazy good fashion.