Monochrome in Manhattan

The FT’s style editor reports on the autumn/winter 2012 women’s wear trends

Black and white and printed all over

Not quite as binary as the usual black/white, yin/yang, opposites attract, yadda yadda yadda cliché cliché cliché of fashion, this black and white is more … complicated. Synergistic, even. It’s print! It can’t be deconstructed. Is this good? It’s certainly realistic. We live in a world where extremes co-exist; this might as well be reflected in our closets.

Interestingly, however, the messages within the mediums varied, with some (Derek Lam’s florals, Diane Von Furstenberg’s cats) suggesting serenity can be found in conflicting shades, with others (Narciso Rodriguez’s puzzle pieces) presenting it as more of a challenge. If you haven’t considered the issue, you might as well begin. Come autumn/winter, wherever you shop, it will be, quite literally, in front of your face.

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From left: Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria Beckham, Jason Wu, Altuzarra, Reed Krakoff

Military

Blame it on the Arab spring. Or the need to fight for employment. Or current American arguments about defence spending. Or the battle for the Republican nomination. There are almost infinite explanations for the military trend infecting so many New York designers, and whether or not any of them are actually legitimate, there’s no disputing the fact that epaulettes, gold braid, brass buttons, stiff collars and tough tailoring – the hallmarks of the armed forces dress uniforms – were everywhere on the catwalks. And that doesn’t even get into the accessories: over-the-knee Prussian boots, leather gloves and neat vinyl caps. Nor does it suggest the take-no-prisoners attitude of the clothes. Charge (card)!

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From left: 3.1 Philip Lim, Vera Wang, Theyskens' Theory, Donna Karan

Sheer lengths

The sartorial equivalent of having your cake and eating it too (and who doesn’t dream of that?), the short-skirt-with-sheer-bottom combo that is the latest evolution in black-tie thinking has proved an unexpectedly ubiquitous idea.

Unexpectedly, because it sounds like a weird idea: neither here nor there, long or short; a kind of wishy-washy hedging of the bets. But ubiquitous because, actually, it works. You get the red carpet length without drowning your bottom half (possibly your better half) in fabric, while covering the usual problem areas and “shadowing” the rest. Think of it as a fashion equivalent of soft lighting or retouching; the scrim of chiffon – it’s almost always chiffon – suggests the legs beneath without revealing any of their flaws. And you don’t need any special gear to get the special effect.

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Name to know

Off the main schedule, down on Chelsea Piers, 25-year-old designer Wes Gordon generated enough buzz last week to fill the fountain at Lincoln Centre, writes Elizabeth Paton. An Atlanta native who found his way to Central Saint Martins College, interning at Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta along the way, Gordon returned to New York City in 2010 to launch his own brand straight after his graduation.

With an aesthetic that combines de la Renta’s love of luxe with an edgier, downtown vibe, Gordon won a Fashion Group International Rising Star award last month, and dresses some of Hollywood’s brightest young things, including Jessica Biel and Kerry Washington.

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