Fall Fashion: Return of the Modern Woman

By Natasha Chalenko

Virginie Viard’s inaugural haute couture collection for Chanel oozed polished intelligence, projecting a striking blend of beauty and brains — and lots of the brand’s signature tweed.

Great news: This season, good taste makes a major comeback along with practicality and comfort; lasting value and longevity overtake excess and pomposity; and lean silhouettes and defined waistlines return.

Women want to look put together, sharp and sophisticated, so I’m not surprised that the three most powerful collections of the season were designed by female-led creative teams: Prada by Miuccia Prada, Chanel by Virginie Viard and Hermès by Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski. Who better than a woman to design clothes that make us feel comfortable and look beautiful at the same time?

The Prada collection requires a special mention: Fittingly titled “Anatomy of Romance,” it is a precise portrait of the modern woman, as if Miuccia Prada had slipped on a lab coat, looked under a microscope, and zeroed in on our ambitions, desires and lifestyles to create looks so breathtakingly glorious that you want to pinch yourself.

Here’s the story of the modern woman as seen on fall’s runways, beginning with sharply tailored all-black outfits and morphing into explorer chic and smartypants classics — all followed by a touch of dark romance, not to mention florals you won’t find in your grandmother’s garden.

Harry Winston watch; Harry Winston San Francisco, 200 Post Street, 628-867-1100

Black Is Back. Black is the most powerful color in fashion. It commands quiet attention while projecting confidence, and it has the ability to unite opposites — sophistication and versatility, sharpness and comfort. Black is also the color of bold individualists. In fact, some of the most remarkable collections of the past decade were all black. Who can forget Junya Watanabe’s fabulous and groundbreaking fall 2009 ready-to-wear? Lately, black was pushed aside by the often distasteful flashiness of street style. Wearing black, after all, won’t get you 15 seconds of fame on Instagram. Eventually, the smart brands realized that black is the most sought-after retail color. It sells! No wonder, then, that a head-to-toe black ensemble was the opening act of almost every attention-worthy collection this season. Look for: tailored silhouettes combined with rich fabric textures, such as cashmere, wool and leather. Opt for accessories with clean lines and a dash of gold.

Prada black leather combat boots with zip compartments;

Modern Nomad. I have always been fascinated by designers’ insight on what a fashionable adventuress should look like. Take Karl Lagerfeld’s genius vision for his highly collectable fall 2011 ready-to-wear, where the Chanel heroine seemed as if she’d dressed in a hurry (but still with good taste!) while running out of her house during an apocalyptic event. In 2019, of all years, our adventuress appears lighter, brighter and happier.(Think Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.) She is more of a Girl Scout — always prepared, resourceful and looking forward to her adventures, be it an exploration of the urban jungle or frolicking in the snow mountains. The hottest accessories are hands-free. On my shopping list: a nylon backpack (with as many zip pockets as humanly possible), utilitarian boots (also, with as many zip pockets as humanly possible) and a wrist pouch, all by Prada.

Chanel black and beige clutch in tweed and shearling;

Intellectual. Smart women dress smart —this is the latest message that the best collections are sending consumers. You don’t need to wear flashy, uncomfortable outfits to be yourself. Modern women take on so many roles in business, family, society and politics. We want the clothes to serve us, not the other way around. Who is this season’s intellectual? Perhaps she’s a scientist, a writer, a gallery curator. She definitely likes to read a good book, visit an interesting exhibit and dream about the future. She is less of a power woman and more on the creative side. Look for: traditional textile patterns such as pied-de-poule and argyle, a classic color palette, soft fabric textures and comfortable tucked-in silhouettes. The hottest accessory is a pair of glasses, naturally.

Harry Winston Candy collection ring; Harry Winston San Francisco, 200 Post Street, 628-867-1100

Dark Romance. Rose is the predominant motif in floral prints this fall, but it’s not your grandma’s variety. Instead, the flower is mystical, oversized and almost grunge-like, placed against moody, solid backgrounds for an extra dramatic effect. Rose prints look sensational, like collectible art — they combine darkness and light, toughness and tenderness, complexity and clarity. I’m not a floral kind of gal, but even I cannot resist wearing one of this season’s key pieces. On my shopping list: a Prada black leather skirt with a contrasting pink roses motif.

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