Fashion Week nods to the '90s, with midriff tops, lots of logos

Sleeves make this Carolina Herrera dress feel covered up, but it's sexy with the metallic sheen.
Sleeves make this Carolina Herrera dress feel covered up, but it's sexy with the metallic sheen. (FRAZER HARRISON / Getty Images)
Posted: September 11, 2013

NEW YORK - Not only did supermodel Naomi Campbell end Diane von Furstenberg's spring presentation in a dazzling black-and-gold metallic sheath - DVF did her finale runway walk Sunday to the pulsating beat of a Mary J. Blige track.

It's official: The '90s are back.

The silhouettes in this week's 300-plus spring collections, one-third of which will show at the Lincoln Center through Thursday, were reminiscent of that decade's clean minimalism.

New York Fashion Week runways were filled with midriff tops, wide-legged pants (we called them culottes back then), slinky slip dresses, and slashes of laser-cut detailing.

And for the first time in more than a decade, the trying-to-be-inconspicuous, postrecession world of fashion is showing early signs of pre-millennium consumption as designers dabble again in placing (and replacing) their logos front and center.

"There is definitely a resurgence of logos," said Alannah O'Neill, associate editor of Elle Canada, moments before von Furstenberg's show began. "Alexander Wang placed his with laser cuts, and DKNY added logos on her pieces."

So why the return of the '90s, especially following a '20s Great Gatsby trend and a punk 1980s mix? And what about this fall's fashionable modern disco blend?

"It sort of reminds today's younger designers of their childhood," O'Neill said.

(How old do you feel now?)

Of course, even though we don't consider the '90s vintage, the number of changes that have occurred in the fashion landscape since then sure makes it feel that way. Pre-'90s, celebrities weren't models, and the only time you saw fashion advertisements during prime time TV was on commercials. It also was the last decade before we became truly consumed by social media, before fashion was ruled by Twitter or Instagram.

Yes, it was a simpler time.

Today's '90s remix, however, has more embellishments, with more color and sequins giving it a real disco feel. Prints bloom with flower power, many of which are color-blocked with contrasting stripes, as on Nicole Miller's tubular gowns. Prabul Gurung did tailored, boxy silhouettes in mixed-media patterns, and BCBG's floral appliqués on mesh netting flowed on chiffon sheaths.

Most of these designers lowered their hemlines for more 1930s class. But many also featured the sure-to-be-on-the-racks cropped tops, indicating that everything from vests to blouses to the dressy sweatshirt (Candela had some pretty cool ones) will be belly-button-baring.

"This is part of the current nod to the continuation of this summer's activewear trend," said Tom Julian, director of strategic business development at the Donegar Group. "The use of neoprene, nylon and mesh . . . it makes these silhouettes really fresh."

Speaking of extras: Accessories-turned-ready-to-wear designer Rebecca Minkoff did a pretty savvy group of fitted, boho sportswear that featured cutoff shorts, mesh floral dresses, and laser-cut knits.

The models' braids and contrasting satchels were both coolly vintage and current. And Minkoff, like many designers before her, tried the boot/sandal combo. Although I like it, I'm not sure it's going to fly. (What did fly is the performance by Janelle Monáe during Minkoff's presentation, especially her backup singers.)

As expected, white was everywhere - these are spring/summer collections, after all - but it often was stark white, even boxy, giving the looks a futuristic feel.

And it's this clean palette that will help propel fashion on its current space-age trip as designers from Nicholas K to Pamella Roland and Desigual add splashes of black for a geometric touch.

Some of the best nods to the '90s were with the evening gowns - which we will surely see during the coming awards season. Carolina Herrera's collection Monday morning proved that sleeves will continue to be strong, and Monique Lhuillier's body-skimming special-occasion dresses are red-carpet lacy.

Donna Karan presented a snappy grouping of plush, denim, and khaki looks. Thanks, however, to the asymmetrical and high-low cuts, the old-school color palette was very current.

As usual, evening wear by Philadelphia's own Ralph Rucci shone with excellence.

He expertly placed laser cuts in day dresses; chiffon prints flowed; and velvet aprons on his sleeved sheaths were standouts.

For the designer who originally hit his stride two decades ago with minimalist flair, this '90s redo is right up his alley.

Wednesday in Style & Soul

The Inquirer's Fall Fashion Preview


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter, @ewellingtonphl.

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