NYFW: JENNY PACKHAM S/S 2014

Holy flashback, Batman! Is this what happens when we let a British designer, one of Kate Middleton’s favorites, show at New York Fashion Week? As wonderful as Jenny Packham‘s gowns typically are, I’m sitting here watching this show and having some not-so-fond recollections of the mid-1970s. There are very good reasons we left fashion from this decade withering in our parents’ attics. I’m not sure Ms. Packham has given us sufficient reason to bring those styles down and dust them off.

Jenny Packham’s inspiration for this line is the 1975 Australian film “Picnic at Hanging Rock.” No, I hadn’t seen it either and had to go look it up real quick like. It was one of those trippy films from an era where no one really knew what they were doing. I’m not saying Ms. Packham doesn’t know what she’s doing, quite the contrary. Her line is another of those celebrating a 25th anniversary this season. But there are definitely some moves here that are questionable.

Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?

On the plus side, the silhouettes work well with the trend this season of being loose and full, breezy, airy, and full of motion. There’s a lot of layering of sheer materials, plenty of open backs, and more than a few plunging necklines. The collection is chock full of color, not a black dress in the bunch. While the gowns are obviously formal, they’re not over-the-top. No one’s going to suffer permanent eye damage if you’re standing in sunlight while wearing one of these pieces.

What doesn’t work happens primarily in two areas: print design and neckline treatment. HUGE checks and diamonds, scalloped lace, pleated ruffles, and perhaps worst of all, pussy cat bows, are all so incredibly distracting as to completely overshadow the more positive points of the dresses. Now, add to that the visual effect of big hair and, in many cases, models clutching purses tight against their bodies as if they were small children, and the overall effect was not very attractive.

This may be one of those rare collections that looks better off the runway than on it. Still, as much as I’ve liked Ms. Packham’s collections in the past, I can’t encourage anyone to run out and spend money on this one.

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