Fashion 2023: “The Last Word”

Left: Margot Robbie as Barbie, Right: BR + Peter Do, bananarepublic.gap.com

Where did the year go? In a way, it just began. We could not escape “Barbiecore” or images of Taylor Swift, for that matter. Still, fortunately, notions of aging and beauty continue to be challenged, helping to redefine what getting older can look like.

When I reflect on 2023, it often seems like a blur of naked dresses, pant-less influencers, and bodies on unabashed display. Models got skinnier, clothing could not be more oversized, and prices for high fashion went sky-high.

Black ruled (especially if made of leather), but one beautiful white brushed leather kitten heel pump with floral applique by Prada became the must-have item for fall. Trains were on almost everything, including long white cotton dresses. Everyone wants to make an entrance (or a memorable exit!) Fashion continues to be gender-bending and all over the place: minimalism and maximalism co-exist, and fantastical haute couture plays off reality-based utilitarian designs.

Miuccia Prada claimed her title as “The Most Influential Designer,” Phoebe Philo got everyone’s attention as she returned to fashion with a collection that enthralled and sold out immediately (even if only a handful could afford it).

As we leave 2023 and begin a new year in fashion, I can’t help but think about what I’d like to see less of (or disappear) and things I’d like to see more of

Left: Ciara wearing Peter Dundas, ph: pagesix.com, Right, Schiaparelli Fall 2023 Couture, photo by Isadore Montag/Gorunway.com

Left, We’ve gone as far as we can with the naked dress trend, as exemplified by Ciara, who attended the Vanity Fair Oscar party in March wearing a Peter Dundas design, which is not much more than a bejeweled net. Ciara is beautiful and has a great body, but as the saying goes, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Right, Are there some things that are better left for private moments? Bring back the mystery and allure. All this blatant nudity makes me want to go entirely in the opposite direction and cover-up in the most elegant, most soignee way possible.

Mica Ertegun at home, Vogue, August 2001, Styled by Andre Leon Talley, Photo by Mario Testino.

Mica Ertegun, who passed away on December 2nd at 92, is on my mind. Her unique personal style, best described as a blend of the austere and the exotic, mixing rigorous discipline with a theatrical sensibility is a perfect muse for now.

It was impossible to escape “Barbiecore” thanks to Greta Gerwig’s movie. The fashion trend, which has been spotted on celebrities as well as on runways (Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli unveiled a collection of just hot pink designs last spring), is an homage to the stylish doll, whose brand identity is undeniably feminine and very, very pink. But I say, enough already! Thankfully, the market is counterbalanced by smart, genderless wardrobe staples like those designed by Peter Do. (Refer to lead shot at top of article.)

Left: Balenciaga Pre Fall 2024 Photo Courtesy of Balenciaga Right: Loro Piana Fall 2023 Ready-to-Wear – Photo Courtesy of Loro Piana.

Left: Ever since COVID-19, casual dressing has gotten an undeservedly bad rap. Most people either dress up for special events or completely dress down with very little in between. But dressing down doesn’t have to mean looking as though one is gym-bound. Right: There is a way to be casual, put together in a highly considered way, and still look polished and sophisticated, best exemplified by Miuccia Prada with her Miu Miu fall 2023 ready-to-wear collection. but she was not the only one.

Left: Balenciaga Oversized Wrap Puffer, nordstrom.com Right: Prada Down Jacket, saksfiftavenue.com.

Left: Sometimes, it seems the world is one oversized black puffer jacket. Puffers are ubiquitous and here to stay, but do they always have to make one look like the Michelin Man? No! Right: this belted Prada Re-Nylon Down Jacket, cut like a blazer, is an excellent example of making something practical look sensational. Priced at $3750, it is for sale at saksfifthavenue.com.

Left: The pantless trend may have ‘legs,’ but it is gimmicky, ridiculous, contrived, and only for the young. Right: Pants and well-tailored trousers are the pivotal points for a great look, day or evening, and they have never looked better or seemed more modern.

Left: Givenchy Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear, Photo: gorunway.com Right: Sergeant Pepper Coat – photo lindahopp.com.

Left: Denim is an undeniably appealing fabric; it is humble, authentic, and sturdy. It’s too bad it often appears sloppy and unappealing, at the designer level no less! Right: We need great designs that capitalize on denim’s American versatility. I love the dark wash and timeless shape of Linda Hopp’s Sergeant Pepper coat, priced at $995 and for sale at lindahopp.com.

Left: Chanel Spring 2024 Ready-to-Wear, photo by Isadore Motag/Gorunway.com Right: Chanel Fall 2023 Couture – Photo by Daniele Oberrauch/Gorunway.com

Left: It’s been a bumpy road for Virginie Viard, who has yet to capture the uncomplicated modernity proposed by Coco. Chanel, the label, will undoubtedly live on regardless of who is at the design helm, but it doesn’t help that Virginie is consistently underwhelming with her uneven collections. Right: Viard is most on track when she loses the cutesy and the kitsch and focuses on the sophisticated and chic.

Kendall Jenner wearing Phoebe Philo black leather jacket, photo Instagram

Speaking of sophisticated collections, Phoebe Philo’s eponymous luxury collection was filled with exceptional pieces. Many, like the black leather bomber worn by Kendall Jenner, are designed with attachable scarves. What a great idea!

Phoebe Philo Trench with Detachable Scarf, Photo courtesy of Phoebe Philo.

Another standout, the double-breasted, belted trench in khaki melange whipcord wool, has an attachable, double-face, leather-bound scarf fixed via a button at the shoulder. It upsets the luxury quotient and adds to the warmth and look.

I would love to see more of this in the coming year and at more affordable prices. Phoebe, if you’re listening, why don’t you consider doing a future collaboration with Uniqlo in the manner of Jil Sander?

BR + Peter Do, bananarepublic.com

There’s no question that we need more inspired designer collaborations, bringing high fashion to the masses like Banana Republic + Peter Do. Even though the line is still relatively expensive, it is far less costly than Peter Do’s eponymous line.

Justina Bag, $180, handmatters.com

The market is flooded with handbags and totes. But I’d love to see more logo-free, capacious, sculptural, and well-priced. You can’t do better than the Justina Bag which reminds me of a Balenciaga design priced at over $4000! The reptile-like finish of the cow leather gives the bag a distinct texture and visual interest.

The handle is comfortable to hold, making it easy to carry the bag for extended periods. Eleven inches in diameter and 21.6 inches in height, it is priced at $180 and for sale at handmatters.com, an online craft & clothing boutique that connects talented local Latin American creators with global shoppers.

Vogue Philippines

While there is still a long way to go regarding concepts about beauty and attitudes about aging (primarily where women are concerned), things continue to improve. In 2023, Vogue Philippines featured Apo Whang-Od as the cover star of its April issue, which marked the 106-year-old tattoo artist from the Philippines as the oldest person ever to appear on the front of Vogue.

Dame Maggie Smith featured in Loewe Ad Campaign

89-year-old Dame Maggie Smith was selected to star in Loewe’s ads shot by Juergen Teller, officially promoting Loewe’s Spring 2024 pre-collection. Sylke Golding walked the runway for Etro’s spring 2023 ready-to-wear runway show. The 57-year-old model, fearless in her embrace of aging, helps redefine what getting older can look like. It’s an important message, especially for women in their 20s and 30s who are told they have an “expiration date.”

Kudus to one female designer (who prefers to go unnamed at the moment) plans to use only women over 40 for her upcoming fall 2024 runway show in New York during NYFW.

Finally, nobody in New York has done more to celebrate the older woman than Joshua Kamei, who launched his popular Instagram account, @LadiesofMadisonAve, in 2020. In February 2022, TikTok acccount followed. This year, both took off; they have a combined following of more than 377,000.

While there will never be another Bill Cunningham, Joshua, with his knowledge of and respect for fashion history, his desire to entertain and inform, and his boundless energy, shares many of the same attributes with Bill, and it inspired me to write a profile, “Joshua Kamei is Giving Me Bill Cunningham Vibes”.

Latest Comments:

  1. Great article! I enjoyed every sentence–so true, unfortunate as it may be. I even learned some new jargon. Hopefully, it…

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

1 Comment
  1. This might go up twice, but Marilyn, you hit a chord. Thank you as always for your end-of-year summation, inspiration and bigger picture logic! As we continue to challenge what are accepted aging “norms,” we must reframe our collective narrative. Modernity vs. matronly. Although I didn’t watch, if both younger and mature audiences connected with “The Golden Bachelor” (and it was the most successful of the franchise), then clearly there is opportunity. This year I found myself interviewing amidst ATS and ageist practices in hiring. At a time when we’re more relevant than ever, if you are lucky enough to score an interview, you may be met with a quizzical expression from hiring managers. Especially if they are trying to match your graduation date and forward personal style. Hopefully 2024 will continue to see the fashion industry challenging itself in terms of defying ageism, and offering options and optimism to future generations. Happy NYE!

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