Women’s fashion trends from the Fall/Winter 2020-21 shows
The womenswear show marathon in the world's fashion capitals, which began on February 3 and ended on Tuesday March 3, has left an odd impression of unfinished business, of issues unresolved. The reflections prompted by fashion designers in New York, London, Milan and Paris with their Fall/Winter 2020-21 ready-to-wear collections are deeply affecting. Beginning with the issue of inclusion.
This season, like never before, the models featured on the catwalks have been hugely diverse in terms of sex, nationality, age and morphology. At the same time, many designers, in their quest for meaning, have drawn on the past to better understand today’s world, even opening up to religion. As a result, next winter’s looks are veering increasingly towards the understated, with minimalist, monochrome outfits that nevertheless don't shy away from flaunting a few flamboyant features. The main trends that emerged from the last few seasons are still going strong, from fringes to capes, all-leather looks, menswear fabrics, lingerie, checks and more. But other trends are surfacing. Women, like fashion designers, are prone to self-questioning, hovering between adult empowerment and carefree childhood.
1) Period dresses
The spirit of the distant past has been powerfully resurrected on the catwalks, from Louis Vuitton's collection, a journey back in time to the 15th century, to medieval chatelaine dresses, to long, high-collared overcoats and cloaks covering the body head to foot, seen among others at Balenciaga and Marine Serre, the pannier dresses referenced and refreshed by Ann Demeulemeester, not to mention the crinolines seen at Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Moschino. Throwbacks to period costumes cropped up in several collections, like Chanel's musketeer boots or the doublets seen on some catwalks.
In the same vein, mantelets are back in fashion, in the form of short mini-capes covering the shoulders and arms. They can be worn over dresses, as in bygone days, and also over coats and other types of jackets. They are made of wool (Jil Sander), of nylon and leather (Nina Ricci), of silvery fabric (Vivienne Westwood and Paco Rabanne), of lace (Pucci), or feature a longer cape-like back (Givenchy).
3) Religious clothes and accessories
In these soul-searching times, several designers seem to have transposed their yearning for spirituality into their collections, resorting to a religious register with Christian overtones. Like the ample cassock-style dresses, the best examples those by Balenciaga. The same theme inspired the white liturgical lace decorating some dresses by Paco Rabanne, and the crosses glimpsed at Chanel, Gucci and Philipp Plein. And the mantillas, the lace scarves worn by Catholic women, sometimes exaggerated to cover the head and shoulders like those of Madonnas and saints, by Comme des Garçons, Simone Rocha and Richard Quinn.
4) Maxi shoulders
The accent is on shoulders, with masculine jackets featured in every collection. The shoulder lines are sculptured 1980s-style (at Balmain, Saint Laurent and Isabel Marant), and the shoulders broaden, inflate and taper, or are hugely exaggerated, for example by Balenciaga and Rick Owens.
5) Balloon sleeves
For next winter, designers are paying a very special attention to arms, covering them and inflating them with volume, emphasizing them like never before. Like shoulders, sleeves too become voluminous. They burgeon into airy shapes, rounded like balloons or flared pagoda-style. A phenomenon affecting all kinds of garments, from dresses to jackets, knitwear and coats.
Ties are making a noticeable come-back, as women cheerfully continue to rummage through men's wardrobes for their own outfits. Men’s-style suits and jackets, often in generously sized monochrome versions, are particularly ubiquitous. The tie, the men's accessory par excellence, is an another must for next winter, as shown by Dior, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Daks, Prada, Moohong, Rokh, Versace and others.
A tidal wave of knitwear has been surging through womenswear collections, driven by a keen appetite for natural fabrics, especially wool. Cable-knit sweaters will play a starring role in next winter’s wardrobes, and knitted dresses are back centre-stage. Worth mentioning, the ‘yarn ball’ dress by Noir Kei Ninomiya.
The world is increasingly eclectic, and clothes have become easy to disassemble and put back again. They also feature plenty of slits, allowing glimpses of bare skin on the torso, the back, the side and legs. This season, designers seem to be really enjoying this game, slicing up and patching back together their garments everywhere, and mending these ‘cuts’ with all kinds of very visible stitching: thick woollen threads at Marni, stapling at Versace, metal rings at Sacai, and black laces on an orange knitted dress at Cristiano Burani.
9) Doll dresses
Women are being portrayed as strong and powerful. But they also want to have fun and, why not, return to their childhood. Several designers have ventured down this road, presenting demure young women’s outfits featuring high socks and white schoolgirl collars, or fully fledged doll dresses, as did Marco De Vincenzo, MSGM, Fendi, Gucci and a few others.
While fashion seems to be inclined towards pared-down and often minimalistic looks, silhouettes are nevertheless enhanced by statement jewellery, glittering on ears and necks. And elsewhere too. Chains and long pearl pendants snake around the body, even worn diagonally from the neck to the armpit, and they also decorate other accessories, like shoes, gloves and handbags.
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