For years, fashion has had a preoccupation with everything downtown, a byword for anything cool, alternative and underground. But when Celine’s Hedi Slimane showed a collection mining the French bourgeois for autumn/winter 2019 and news came that Gossip Girl, the cult Upper East Side-set television series, would be returning to our screens in a reboot next year, uptown suddenly became where it’s at. And with it the return of prim-and-put-together fashion.
Because after seasons of hybrid clothes riddled with complications and layers that get stuck in doors (is it a dress? Is it a coat? No, it’s a pair of trousers!), there’s something new, refreshing and modern about wearing clothes with no fuss. These are clothes that show off the craft of the perfect cut (even that they do have just any kind of cut at all); that are elegant and boast a silhouette. They have a sense of non-ironic occasion.
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Just ask Stranger Things stars Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton who sat front row at the Thom Browne show this past New York Fashion Week in matching preppy outfits: she in a gold buttoned navy blazer, tennis skirt and tie; he in flannel trousers and a crisp white shirt. Or see Euphoria’s leading actor Zendaya’s enthusiasm to collaborate with prince of prep, Tommy Hilfiger, for the past two seasons, a polished take on the Seventies. And, just this past London Fashion Week, Richard Quinn recreated high society with a Cecil Beaton-style still-life. While Burberry gave us a new take on the traditional twinset as a dress and capelet combination. There was rugby shirting for men and women, frothy dresses and a pinstripe-sequin three-piece sand suit worn with a hijab.
Next year it will be the 30th anniversary of Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan. Set amid the debutante season of Manhattan, the film follows the between-ball lives of a set of wealthy young socialites and wound up serving as inspiration for Stuart Vevers’ resort 2020 collection for Coach: cue a little check suit and tweaks on the tuxedo and 1990s-style chokers around the neck among his standard aviator-based fare.
And the trend for upper crust revelry continues to make its comeback in Joanna Hogg’s coming-of-age drama The Souvenir. Tilda Swinton’s daughter, Honour Swinton Byrne, plays a wealthy young woman with ambitions to be a filmmaker. Set in the early 1980s, her wardrobe is one of pure aristocratic envy. The film was met by rave reviews (90 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes!) and won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Suddenly, it feels so right - if not bizarrely counterculture - to wear these kinds of clothes. Especially given that Demna Gvasalia, the streetwear revolutionary, just exited his disruptive fashion label Vetements. Fellow industry innovator Virgil Abloh is also reportedly taking some time out, from both Off-White, his own label, and Louis Vuitton.
It’s time to rediscover the classic demi-academic styles that Ralph Lauren has long been sending down his catwalks. So spiffy! Or to be (re)introduced to the colourful shift dresses of Lilly Pulitzer, whose vibrant prints were originally conceived to cover up a stain. Launched in the 1950s by the Palm Beach-based socialite and fashion designer (who was married to Peter Pulitzer, the grandson of Joseph, founder of the Pulitzer Prize), the brand became synonymous with New England-style. In 2015, it collaborated with mass market retailer Target and so successful was that team-up, it’s been reissued again this autumn. Which, surely, is enough said.
BURO.’s four essential pieces to nail preppy bourgeois style this autumn.