This Fall being the first fashion season since the Time’s Up movement, was understandably fixated on women in the workplace. There were trench coats, blazers, briefcases and an entire Alexander Wang collection of executive realness themed boss lady. And there was, even more understandably, a resurgence of the 1980s brash colorways and larger-than-life silhouettes from New York to Paris, recalling the decade women first took a swing at the glass ceiling. Which is to say, shoulder pads are back and bigger than ever.
The urge to associate with an unsuccessful attempt at professional equality might seem misguided, but the sudden unapologetic yen to take up space with garments that render its wearer so large she cannot be invisible rang true for young designers and stalwarts alike. In Manhattan everyone from Christian Siriano to Marc Jacobs heeded the call, the latter sending supermodel Kaia Gerber down a spotlit runway swimming in so many roomy layers, she was only recognizable by her bare chin and poker-face lips.
Across the pond, designers didn’t have to leave their comfort zones to extend their garment’s spatial reach. Donatella Versace’s vision of glamour was the result of digging through her archives, launching off the success of last season’s tribute to her brother, Gianni. This time she turned up the brazen and bold primary colors from seasons past in re-worked silhouettes of tulip-cut skirts and round, padded shoulders. Anthony Vaccarello and Karl Lagerfeld served feminism with a frisson of romance. Saint Laurent’s glittering floral dresses were elongated well past the collarbone before they tapered off into a sleeve. And Chanel delivered a collection of outerwear with Edwardian frills including a double-breasted number with exaggeratedly-draped tweed on you know where.
It’s an issue of visibility as much as it is of protection, as exemplified at Alexander McQueen, where Sarah Burton created a collection of what she thought of as “soft armor” for women, closing out the show with a crisp black blazer adorned with a bubblegum pink satin skirt, bow and gargantuan ruffled shoulders resembling butterfly wings. Consider it the metamorphosis of the power suit.