Paris Fashion Week 2013

Ebony and ivory

The single biggest trend on the Paris runways was the high-definition contrast between ebony and ivory. They did, indeed, live together in pretty perfect harmony, whether it was a black and white evening gown at Chloé or Hermès; a cable knitted number at Christian Dior; a black mini dress trimmed at the collar and cuffs in white at Valentino; optical two-tone patterns at Chanel; or the monochrome story at Alexander Wang’s Balenciaga debut. If you want to make a statement, pastels aren’t nearly as effective as ye olde visual dialectic (just ask Karl Marx). Not that this is heading toward uniformity; it’s a tale of two extremes – the visual punch that comes from the juxtaposition of opposites. As to why, well, we live in a particularly binary time, with the gulf between rich and poor, east and west, conservatives and liberals, getting ever starker; fashion is simply reflecting that widespread reality. But while the inability to meet in the middle has the political and economic worlds in frustrating stasis (or Sequester), in sartorial terms this particular stand-off has an attraction of its own. After all, who wouldn’t love this sort of clarity, in their closet if not their life?

City stripes

Blame the End of Men (and its corollary, the Ascent of Women), or all the news about the benefits of having women on company boards, or simply the fact that wives and mothers are increasingly the breadwinners in many families, but gender-bending clothing was one of the major stories of the autumn/winter season. Little wonder, then, that pinstripes have been ubiquitous. After all, nothing says “menswear” quite like Savile Row suiting – even if the jacket has sprouted enormous bows or roses; or the trousers have been transformed into a trumpet-hemmed skirt; or a tie has been embedded in the top. Taken as a whole, it gives new meaning to the idea of a corporate takeover. Suits you, ma’am.

Baggy trousers

Given the physics of fashion, it was only a matter of time before what went in – trouser widths, which have been shrink-wrapped to legging size for seasons – came back out. Well, that time is here in a big way. Literally: very big. We’re not talking straight legs here, we’re talking baggy, Atlas-sized boyfriend trousers, that hang loose on the hips. Big pants (no, not in the UK sense) do not big impressions make, however, one of the ironies of upsizing the yardage is that, by contrast, the pins within look notably small. Which suggests that this trend may have – legs.

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