Precisely at this time of each year, but now more acutely than ever, the shifting of seasons comes to me too soon. It must be something in my blood, but I never get enough of summer. Too few days away from the daily turmoil, too short hours lingering by the sea chuckling softly with my friends, too little time with only my thoughts in the balmy night’s breeze. My summers are passing by way too fast. Summer should get a speeding ticket, they say, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s not that I don’t love autumn, for I do, but with each night towards the end of August, I feel the old ache of knowing that things will never be the same again and very soon I’m gonna wake up just in time for yet another year.
Lately, of course, the change of seasons comes as a package with the itchiness brought upon by the uncertain times we live in. We can’t stop the feeling that something is missing, that in more ways than one, something has been lost. There is an inescapable sense of unease, a vacuum to be filled, and this feeling darkens the glistening pathway of summer into fall.
I know it’s not only me. Recent researches in behavioral science, as well as studies that explore what makes brands inspiring and what inspires consumers, seem to agree that people all over the world are feeling a sense of absence that is hard to define – the vast majority of people now say they ‘just want to feel something, to feel alive’. Asked to identify one feeling that was prevalent in their lives in the last decade, over three-quarters of the interviewed said fear. As Katherine May summed up in her last book, ‘If there was a Spirit of this age, it would look a lot like fear. For years now, we’ve been running like rabbits.’ Of all the feelings on the cards in a full decade, the omnipresent had to be the one most prone to lead us to distress, disruption, and damage. And we felt it plenty – whether we feared the costs of this century’s horrors of politics, war, climate crisis, and pandemic isolation, or the hassles of the grind culture, the trappings of status, the burden of never being good enough.
It comes as no surprise, then, that we suffer from joy deprivation and yearn for any emotion-inducing experience that may deliver it. We are starved for awe and wonder, for serendipity and adventure, and have an intense need for humor to be injected into our lives. Our present-day malaise is not vague at all – we crave the sense of being alive, the thrilling, the uplifting, and the magical.
Since fashion is inspired by social changes, always portraying the zeitgeist, it has an inherent ability to help people transcend tough times. Fashion gives us the key to both witnessing beauty and living it, to making sense of the chaotic world around us, and to creating a spark of belonging and connection that brings us closer together. More than that, fashion creates collective experiences that are continuous sources of emotions such as joy, surprise, awe, and even fun. Every now and then – because, let’s face it, fashion and humor are really not the best of buddies – a rebellious fashion designer breaks the stiffy rules with attitude and imparts some much-needed laughter to an industry that often takes itself too seriously. At the end of the day, when it comes to our personal styling choices, there’s healing in resetting our decision-making criteria to ‘what makes my heart swell, my jaw drop, and gives me goosebumps.’
Looking through hundreds of runway photos presenting to the world the upcoming fall styles, I noticed a palpable understanding of this numb, awe-starved societal state of mind. For the first time in a long time, the season’s fashion designs had not only a tangible air of joyful newness to them but also a knowledge, finally, of what women actually wear and what makes us tick (again).
A preview of the fall styles shows two equally powerful approaches. On the one hand, we see an emphasis on dressing for individuality – a resurgence of elegance and perfectly controlled tailoring nodding to the classic, with a frisson of drama, monumental beauty, and power-hour wonder. On the other hand, we get the prevailing message of wearability, relatability, and comfortability, without sacrificing any points in the styling. Fall fashion trends speak with one voice about timeless pieces, bespoke in look, design, and construction, yet created to be worn by everyday women. Both approaches respond bullseye to the wow-factor need and to the general desire for experiences that can empower, enchant, inspire, and enthrall.
First and foremost, we talk about YSL-style, wow-awe elegance, where every aspect of the look is thoroughly considered. Think the iconic skirt suit sported by Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl, made of the finest menswear fabrics, with an impressively large shoulder jacket, cut into a classic men’s suit jacket, or smoking, or velvet blazer, over a lean pencil skirt which finished just above the knee.
In the amped-up version, it’s a leather skirt suit, giving off the thrilling vibe of a fierce, and unapologetic, modern femininity, completely voided by any notion of stiffness. It’s the timeless look of a woman who creates her own style, the particular feminine/masculine approach with subtle military inflections, and she’s-one-the-boys sexiness that will never go out of fashion. No one could ever forget the unforgettable Kelly McGillis in 1986’s Top Gun, wearing the bomber jacket with a white shirt, pencil skirt, and red lipstick wide smile.
The suit works best worn with tanks as simple as cotton tees, killer slingbacks, substantial gold bangles, and aviator shades. Toned down, the skirt may be replaced with cashmere leggings, seeing that fancy hosiery is on the rise, and the jacket softened by a chiffon blouse with super-long trailing neckties, a diaphanous black lace and velvet camisole, or a shawl draped and fastened with a statement gold brooch.
It’s an elegance that feels right for the times, as it showcases both our desire to leave behind fear and unease, and the imperative need for reset. It calls for finally shaking off the false impression that wearing loungewear to work from home makes no difference to our productivity levels, mental health, or self-respect. Nothing says reimagining better than a sleek pencil skirt and a power-shouldered blazer that looks custom tailored for your exact measurements.
Of course, fashion designers didn’t miss out on our thirst for thrill and fun either, and sent out on runways models looking intentionally frazzled, having remembered to wear stockings and outerwear but forgotten pants and a hairbrush. We get to play the game of ‘forgotten’ wardrobe items, be they missing bras, pants, or shoes while accepting that underwear, opaque or fishnet tights, and cotton socks will do.
Next to powerhouse elegance, the other buzzword of the season is wearability, meaning ready-to-wear for real. It’s still elegance yet with the casual flair of cool prep with tailored trousers and knits, or the easy legging looks. The style most likely to embody this spirit of wearability is featuring a white tank top and jeans, which proves that the seasonless pieces are meant to be collected and restyled season after season.
Practicality and our mutual desire for comfort are played out in the form of furry footwear, fashionable security blankets, and apparel fitted with oversize hoods – from dresses with built-in hoods to industrial parkas or dramatic faux-fur outerwear. The wildly large, security blanket-like shawls, worn draped around and pinned in place with a highly ornated mega brooch, act as a much-needed tight hug as well as a magician cape, mystery-infused.
The finishing touch of the season, if we set aside the brooch and the bangles, is the chunky earring. No style presented on the runways, from elegant eveningwear to simple tank tops, was missing this statement accessory, so big, bold earrings are a good investment for this fall, being up to be worn for practically any occasion.
A bird’s eye view shows, at least through the lens of fashion, that we are starting finally, slowly, to move away from dread and discontent, towards much sunnier dispositions. And we do it via a path of royally-beautiful defiance, which shakes all things up and awakens us wide. They say that with every problem we confront in life, there is not only something to do but also something to know. Regardless of this problem’s magnitude and global stature, I think that what it is for us to know here is very simple and very clear.
From the fear of being alive to the wonder of being alive, there is just one way. As it is from darkness to light or from anywhere, home. What truly matters is to travel it looking forward, unflinching, until we reach the point of no return.