NYFW: CAROLINA HERRERA F/W 2014

We just finished the Carolina Herrera Fall/Winter 2014 show and I am awestruck by the elegance not simply of the clothes that came gliding down the runway, but by the woman herself. It seems to have become a standard on the part of younger designers to make their appearance at the end of the show wearing something that appears to have been hastily thrown together, usually involving some combination of t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Yes, we know that backstage is incredibly busy and that attention must be paid to all the last-minute adjustments required, but if they can take the time to dress 30 models, can’t someone at least put some decent clothes on the designer before they step out?

Against such thoughtless casualness, Ms. Herrera sets a wonderful example, arriving on the catwalk dressed so very wonderfully in one of her own black suits, demonstrating for all just how wearable is the fashion they’ve just seen. Ms. Herrera is no longer a young 20-something. Neither is she tall and excessively thin. She is, in fact, the epitome of her target audience. Her appearance on the runway so wonderfully dressed is perhaps the biggest single selling point for how wonderful her collection is.

For this season, the Venezuelan-born designer takes us back to a period when elegance and class were more standard, the late 1950s, early 1960s. There is a strong feeling that perhaps the ghost of Jackie Kennedy Onasis might have been influencing Ms. Herrera are she created these designs. Silhouettes are full, feminine, and flattering at every angle. Okay, I’m personally not a huge fan of those elongated hats; I fear they’re a bit impractical for more contemporary situations. Still, the styles are opulent and so well refined that one almost expects the models to come down the runway holding cocktails.

The palette starts off black, and Ms. Herrera makes good use of this season’s trend for velvet. She uses the fabrics not only in whole panels, but delicate designs on organza. As the colors grow lighter, with greys, blues, and browns, she begins to infuse the styles with geometric geometric print. Another show of good taste comes in her ability to keep prints from running amok by slipping in solid colored panels to provide a visual break.

I am in love with the large collars on many of the tops and jackets, and the capelettes are likely to be every bit as popular now as they were when I was a child. One draw back in her commitment to the period, some frocks and coats are voluminous enough that young women especially might find themselves having to endure well meaning but misguided questions as to the state of their pregnancy. One would hope that better manners prevail.

If anything, I find it a bit sad that these pieces will be at such a price point as to be out of reach for the majority of young women. While no one would suggest a social return to the days of Stepford wives, it is nice to see that someone in fashion can remind us what it means to be a lady. I can only hope that sufficient attention is being paid.

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