The designers at New York fashion week must have had an early peek at the Grammy dress code – you know, the new one that famously dictated no thongs, exposed “under-curves” of any curves, provocatively see-through clothing, or “commercial identification of actual brand name products … obscenity …[or] organised cause”.
After all, as awards day dawned on Sunday, pop stars may not have been able to shop their closets for compliant items, but they could easily have shopped the catwalks. There was a noted lack of exposure: northern, southern, or otherwise, and definitely no sloganeering.
Indeed, the most political statement of any collection came from Diane von Furstenberg’s trademark description (in her show notes, natch, not on any garment) of her imaginary woman as “the rock star and muse of her own life”.
But while 1970s “glam rock” was on DVF’s mind and catwalk, in multi-print georgette or suede wrap dresses, slick trouser suits in fuchsia satin, gold snakeskin print jackets and floor-length halter chiffon maxi dresses, there was something sweetly nostalgic about the whole. Rock star style has got so sexually extreme (sic that Grammy dress code) ye olde looks can no longer produce the same frisson they once had. Instead they evoke the comfort of the familiar, which is sometimes good (the wrap dresses) and sometimes stale (velvet empire-waist tunics over matching velvet stovepipe trousers), and raises the question: where do we go from here?
The answer, at Derek Lam, was subdued in shade and shape, with slouchy satin cargo pants under colour bloc satin T-shirts, nubby bouclé capes in camel and navy, and geometric suede below-the-knee skirts and shifts, occasionally finished in crochet fringe. In this Mr Lam is right on trend: lengths are coming down overall, with the mid-calf practically the new short, and sleeves are getting longer and larger.
Indeed, the most suggestive dress on his runway was an egg-shaped tunic, with elbow-length sleeves trimmed in fringe and a quasi-plunging neckline – that nevertheless stopped long before it reached any danger point. The final evening look, a virginal white shift gown with cap sleeves that wrapped around the back like a shawl, was almost novice-like in its simplicity.
Even Tommy Hilfiger, who made his name partly through his association with the music world, turned back the clock to the years of inexperience (at least theoretically), entitling his collection “Savile Row meets Ivy League”, and situating it on the set of a faux library that resembled no school so much as Hogwart’s (minus the magical owls). Collegiate tropes were rife, from houndstooth to cable knits, chalk stripes and pea coats, but given a slightly underhand twist: one argyle shirt dress was made of leather diamonds.
The Grammy police should have got the stylists of Jennifer Lopez (gown slit to the thigh), Katy Perry (360 degrees of cleavage) and Co a preview – though admittedly, and Zac Posen’s fishtail crepe columns, duchesse satin ball gowns and jutting peplum-hipped sheaths aside, the evening wear thus far has been minimal, in all senses of the word. Certainly, if Sunday night’s red carpet reflected what seems to be coming for A/W 2013, it would not have looked the same. Though whether that would be to anyone’s benefit other than the censors is another issue, yet to be resolved.
For more from the runways visit www.ft.com/fashionweeks