Style / The back and forth of movement chic

Beachwear and more from Miu Miu

Photos provided by manufacturers


Movement chic is more work than it looks. It seems easy enough. Think anything biblical, anything Star Wars: The Force Awakens—like what the heroine Rey wore to deliver the adorable BB8 bot to safety. What would you wear for a desert adventure, for example? Here starts the checklist. You need something that covers the skin, or at least covers it enough. This something should show your shape, but not cling. It also has to let you run. Every journey has an emergency. So, here you are in the hunt for jersey that flows, cotton that parachutes, linen that flies, and loose belting to keep you intact. Sashes work, if you are not the claustrophobic kind, as do drawstrings. To tame all this billowing means that there will have to be folds, folds from all the gathered fabric. Think of it as outfit origami, a reconstruction assisted by pleats or tucks or a waistband turned down. There could be ruching or crinkled (with precision) crepe. However those reams of flowy fabric get tapered into your style, they are never rigid. You have to be able to chase down children and squeeze you and five of your colleagues into a booth for four. You have to be able to kiss the iron goodbye. Most importantly, you are the objet d’art. You are what matters, not the clothes.


As much as the summer 2017 collection seemed inspired by a 2015 movie character named Rey, there were a few other trends. Wide pants is one. Wide pants with everything. Wide pants with a bralette top. Wide pants with cropped sweaters. Wide pants peeking out from under sleek city midi dresses. Wide pants in patent leather with—actually, I don’t remember. I only remember the patent leather part. Wide pants and soft blouses with itty bitty prints. I started wearing wide-leg casual pants last fall, to mixed reviews. “You look like California,” a friend said. “Are those your pajamas?” my brother asked. The trick with differently sized anything, whether it is second-skin slim or it is long or short or loose enough to conceal stolen baguettes, cheese, and a couple of bottles of wine, the trick is to own it. With wide pants, you move your leg in that way. You walk with a purpose. You move your leg to help the material make its own statement. Do not be shy. (Do not steal baguettes, cheese, and wine, either.) The other trick is footwear. A wide, long pant-leg of dense fabric needs a substantial shoe or boot—think platform or wedge. Wide and long and lightweight can fit with shoes that are barely there, like sandals. Shorter pant hems expand your options. Consider it an invitation to explore your own design skills. A flat-soled ankle boot perhaps. An ankle-strap pump. A mule. 

Above: Marni outfit includes the purse, Cloé wide legs, and more wide legs from Sonia Rykie
​Below: Baltrain’s princess warrior look, wide legs by Rochas, and Celene cap sleeve/printed jersey dress


The other trend I notice is actually a group of sub-trends, all of which take us back to the sixties. It is as if the industry were giving a nod to Buffalo Spree’s own celebration of fifty years. Three looks surface. One is from the earliest years, a “What would Jackie do?” approach. This is the fashion sense for observers. The fabrics are dense and expensive, practically molded, and almost more suitable for upholstery. I would give anything to own something from Prada’s Miu Miu line, to own it and wear it often enough to break it to my lifestyle will. The middle of the sixties decade gave us math. “Geometry” may be a better way to describe it. New shapes surfaced, like Mary Quant’s micromini skirt, tight striped turtlenecks, knee-high boots, and raincoats made of plastic. Emilio Pucci, the “Prince of Prints,” began developing graphic abstract designs inspired by Sicilian mosaics, Bali batiks, and African motifs. No pinks, no baby anything. His color combinations reflected energy and strength of will. The clothes could be simple because the patterns were in charge. The mid-sixties also gave us Wearable Warhol and don-able art deco. We see this today in the graphic prints from the Gigi Hadid/Tommy Hilfiger consortium, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, and the late Sonia Rykiel. The flower power of Chloé and Michael Kors share the print innocence of child-like cutouts. The floral outlines of Balenciaga are more realistic, except in color. The hues are just intense enough to be off, like the uncanny valley of color.


More from Miu Miu; Waist options from Bogetta Veneta


The third look, luxury bohemian, wraps up the revival. It reminds us of the late sixties, or at least America’s West Coast twentieth-century restylings of ancient influences. There is no plastic or hard-edged structure. My shirt is not making a statement. No one here is wielding a light saber, either. This is a fashion sense of reflection, something to put on after more aggressive deeds have been accomplished. You will recognize the prints and the shapes, borrowed fifty and sixty years ago by explorers who traveled across Northern Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India, from as near as the North American indigenous folk and as far as the Chinese. These travelers came back from journeys and distributed their samples of caftans and wraps, shirts without collars, and new-to-many-of-us embroideries. In this look, pants do not balloon, but they are loose. We are back to an efficiency of movement, but any adroitness and nimbleness is complicated by loose layering and luxury. There are always sacrifices. Veronica Etro of the Italian fashion house, Etro, understands how to mature the ideals and dreams that inspired this look into something less energetic, more patient—more productive in a different sense.  

Louis Vuitton dress, gathered-fabric looks from Lemarie


Movement chic stylings taper. They are tucked in a way that Pearl S. Buck would understand, and the patterns are quieter. This makes sense because art needs contrast. I will feel comfortable wearing a desert survivor/thriver look if the material is subdued enough. Subtle gives me a chance to be me and not feel like the outfit is in charge. But with luxury bohemian, the patterns have a role to play. They are not flower power, or in a geodesic manner in one’s face, but they are there, as in ancient times, trying to tell a story or at least send a message. There is a power in movement chic. It speaks to getting work done and respecting the body’s strengths and weaknesses. It acknowledges nature. I applaud fashion’s appreciation (finally) of these realities, even if it looks like it took a sci-fi movie to set the course. We still love beauty and the ability to have enough spare time at the end of the day—or week—to reflect, and this is the couture of Etro. In fact, if Rey were a real person and invited to walk a red carpet, Etro is what she would probably wear. Etro is what I would wear. And I wouldn’t ask my brother for his opinion.                  


Catherine Berlin is Spree’s longtime contributor on style.


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