If the pandemic has given us a renewed sense of perspective on fashion’s relentless pace, its voracious desire for newness, and the pressures this places on people and the planet, it has also reinforced that most basic tenet: at its best, fashion can decorate your day, inspiring and edifying in equal measure. As the countless “lockdown looks” posted on social media in the last few months attest, wearing good clothes can lift the spirits immeasurably. While many fashion houses were forced to stall production on their autumn/winter 2020 collections, the phenomenal creativity on show back in February and March prevails in the pages of Vogue: never underestimate the power of a great fashion story to lift your spirits – nor that of a gallery of fabulous looks from the catwalks of New York, London, Milan and Paris.
The tale of the autumn/winter 2020 season may yet be best summed up with the idiomatic “all dressed up with nowhere to go”: eveningwear exemplars were all over the catwalks. Even if you’re confined to your living room, you can expect serious fun with the season’s extraordinary volumes, manifesting in everything from ballooning sleeves (as seen at Chanel, Fendi, et al) to exploding skirts (most jaw-droppingly at Gucci, Molly Goddard, Off-White, and Carolina Herrera). Gorgeous gold, too, was a prevalent theme on the runways – Tom Ford’s cut-away number was shown in Los Angeles to its best advantage by Bella Hadid – as was an exuberant weakness for fringing (you can thank Miuccia Prada for that).
Elsewhere, a somewhat studious theme emerged, equally suitable for these sobering times. Nerdy knitwear abounded, with cardigans and argyle sweaters paired with everything from go-anywhere denim to after-dark silks. As did skirt suits, which are surely the most empowering purchase you can make if you’re planning a serious “back-to-work” look when the office reopens. And when we say there is a lot of head-to-toe black – well, trust us. Black is most certainly back.
Then there are the “just because” pieces that will never fail to delight. Seeking to make one key investment buy this season? Make it a hot red dress, preferably in slinky sequins. (Most of the front row is still dreaming of Adut Akech in Valentino’s paragon.) Here’s Vogue’s edit of the biggest autumn/winter 2020 trends.
The Balloon Affair
Whether you’ve got Anthony van Dyck’s portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria or Dynasty’s Alexis Carrington saved in your iPhone screenshots, there is only one rule when it comes to sleeves this season: pump, pump, pump it up. From refined ruffles and leg o’ mutton shapes at Max Mara to choux pastry puffs at Chanel, statement swathes at Jil Sander and shoulder shelves at Isabel Marant, nothing says “she’s arrived” quite like an XXL sleeve.
Gold has smashed through a new price record on the global markets as the pandemic continues to take effect, but fashion got there first: the February runways were filled with glistening gowns (Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta), sumptuous day dresses (Celine), and one-off armoured Joan of Arc-inspired outfits (Paco Rabanne). If you’re shopping for a Christmas party number, this is the hue to pursue.
One nil to the street-style set: after seasons of ‘It’ girls and influencers championing the shrug-it-on ease of a cardigan, the librarian favourite is back on all the biggest and brightest catwalks. Worn with everything from Seventies-hued denim (see Chloé) to trouser suits (Coach 1941) and pencil skirts (Fendi, Christopher Kane), our favourite look came courtesy of Jacquemus, where Simon Porte Jacquemus, with the help of Jill Kortleve, made the cardigan sex symbol-worthy.
Gather up those tartans, houndstooths, ginghams and Prince of Wales checks and get to work: this is the easiest trend of the season, and all it requires is an unabashed passion for clashing. From Alexander McQueen to Brandon Maxwell, who offered elegant cross-hatched “yes Marm” dresses at one end of the spectrum, mixed with grown-up leather accessories, to Burberry at the other, where tights, skirts, coats, and headscarves in jubilant house checks were worn altogether, there are multiple ways to wear your squares come autumn.
The first look out at Prada almost always ends up proving definitive of the season, and autumn/winter 2020 was no different: Miuccia Prada paired a businesslike grey blazer with an ebullient fringed skirt and just like that, femininity was bolstered for another autumn. “I wanted to use fringe as a symbol of what is considered feminine… the quintessential cliché. This is a way of saying that you can be strong and feminine at the same time,” she said, of her new wardrobe equation. Elsewhere, designers fell for fringe in a big way: from ’20s flapper-style tassels at Dior, to wild chunky trails on coats, bags and dresses at Bottega Veneta, these styles are best worn with a forward-march sense of resolve.
Enter The Matrix
Your coat’s vital stats for autumn: take Keanu Reeves’s Matrix character as your muse and make like Neo. Yes, there were XXL coats and shearling coats and trench coats and capes, but it was the buttery-soft leather coats that caught our eye. Structured and a little prim at Fendi and Versace, louche and more Nineties at Khaite and Tod’s, you’ll be surprised with how quickly they add a little polish to your jeans-and-a-sweater combo. Not convinced? As the Architect would say: “Denial is the most predictable of all human responses.”
If the allure of the red dress has passed you by, get thee to Valentino – no one does the fiery hue quite like the Italian brand, after all. Hot on its heels is Bottega Veneta, whose sequin-spangled version was worn with rubber wellingtons – proof, if you needed it, that this is quite simply an item that can be paired with, uh, anything. Fiery, unapologetic, it’s worth investing in this season. As Vogue once opined, “You cannot retreat in red”. Go get ’em.
The New Suit
A skirt suit? For 2020, this slobbiest of years, measured out in working-from-home track pants? We’re serious. If you’re planning a return to the office, why not look the part, in lemon-yellow Marc Jacobs?
Press To Inflate
Already pressed inflate on your sleeves? Well then, you’re halfway to autumn’s boldest look, which deals in extraordinary proportions and even leaves room for lunch. From bulbous creations at JW Anderson to Marie Antoinette-inspired cake dresses with serious presence at Moschino, unexpected volumes lifted numerous collections. Our top: start small, then rise to the occasion.
Borrowed From The Boys
Bella Hadid was all over this traditionally masculine trend before it hit the catwalks. No wonder, then, that Matthew Williams, the newly installed creative director at Givenchy, put her in a leather tie and white shirt combo from his Alyx collection. Doesn’t she look… ravishing? There are plenty of places to grab a slice of that, from Dolce & Gabbana to Gucci and Versace.
Back To Black
As the autumn shows drew to a close, the front row lost count of how many had opened with a head-to-toe black look. Even Pierpaolo Piccioli, the master of colour, fell for it in a big way at Valentino, editing out the striking neons and rich colour pairings that have defined his solo tenure at the house in favour of black sequins, black corsets, black trousers, black coats. It was moody and sexy – and echoed elsewhere, often with some black leather thrown in for good measure (thigh-high, second-skin leather boots alert!) at Alexander McQueen and Victoria Beckham. Even the grown-up tailoring at The Row and Carolina Herrera had a moody edge. And if head-to-toe feels a little severe, well, a pair of stompy boots is non-negotiable.