“When They Go Low, We Go High”

Are low rise jeans really making a comeback?

When First Lady Michelle Obama uttered these famous words at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, she was speaking about the lessons she and President Obama tried to instill in their daughters. I doubt that she imagined it would be applied to fashion.

But I relate everything to fashion and these words have many applications within the fashion cosmos, both metaphorically and factually. The recent news that high end emporium Barneys New York has filed for Chapter 11 is indicative of the latter.

Serena Williams attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

High-Low, the practice of mixing something costly, extravagant, or formal with something unexpectedly humble (like combining a t shirt with a ball skirt) has become standard issue. When Serena Williams paired customized sneakers with her Versace gown at the Met Gala in May, it was a good example of downplaying the luxurious.

J.Lo wearing Giambattista Valli’s High Low dress
Photo: Getty Images

High-Low also refers to hemlines that are high in front and low in back. The result is leg baring yet modest and it is perfect for when you can’t make up your mind. When JLO wore this delicious pink Giambattista Valli, it was ideal for displaying her gorgeous gams and also making a grand entrance.

Left: Tom Ford Fall 2019 RTW & Right: Balenciaga Fall 2019 RTW
Photos: Vogue.com

Necklines are another zone marked by extremes. Designers are as taken with low plunging necklines as they are with necklines that are so high, they practically obscure the face. Either way, the overall look and mood is completely different.

Kim Kardashian goes low

Anyone can look as classy as Audrey Hepburn with a high black turtleneck. Even Kim Kardashian. I know I should take the ‘high’ road, not the ‘low’ road but I couldn’t resist!

Left: Balenciaga Pre-Fall 2019 Right: Celine Fall 2019 RTW
Photo Vogue.com

The runways, and the marketplace, are flooded with boots in a myriad of heel heights and iterations. Accessorizing with a high over the knee boot instead of a low ankle boot, immediately changes the silhouette and proportion.

Bella Hadid wearing low hip slung jeans
Photo: Whowhatwear.com

Even something as seemingly subtle as the placement of the waist (low or high) is a look changer. The endless high-low fluctuations in the assignment of waistbands in jeans is of endless fascination to the fashion set.

So it was not surprising that everyone took notice when Bella Hadid recently stepped out in a pair of belly button baring low slung slouchy boyfriend jeans. And it wasn’t the first time.

Versace Spring 2020 Menswear
Photo: Vogue.com

Just about one month earlier, Bella walked the Versace Spring 2020 menswear runway in Milan wearing a glittery black blazer, bra, and pants that were so low slung, not only her belly button and pelvis were exposed, but her black Versace thong.

Heron Preston Spring 2020 Menswear
Photo: Vogue.com

At Heron Preston’s menswear show in Paris, a model also appeared on the runway wearing an ultra- low pair of pants with her pelvis and black thong showing. How low can you go?

Colovos Resort 2019

Luckily, there is a flip side to fashion’s coin. You can always count on companies like Colovos if you prefer your jeans slightly baggy and high- waisted.

Khaite Resort 2020
Photo: Vogue.com

Khaite’s high-waist white crepe trousers shown beneath a long blazer coat for resort 2020 are a marvelous example of the elegance inherent in going high.

Christian Dior Fall 2019 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: Vogue.com

At the Christian Dior fall 2019 show in Paris, Maria Grazia Chiuri emphasized the high waistline of her trousers and skirts with a handsome wide saddle calfskin belt.

Alaia Spring 2020
Photo: Vogue.com

One of my favorite examples is this Alaia black cotton pique high waist cropped trouser from spring 2020. It was shown with a cropped bra top; the sexiness downplayed with a flat menswear inspired oxford.

Azzedine Alaia, who passed away at the age of 77 in 2017, was known for his form fitting, figure defining fashion. Alaia loved and celebrated the female body and routinely focused on the waist. In many cases, he used a wide corset belt to further highlight it.

Alaia animal print corset belt

With this Alaia stenciled animal print corset belt, you can create a waistline even when there isn’t one. It is just one of a great selection currently for sale on 1st dibs, $795.14 More info/purchase

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.

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