Packed into the tent at Bryant Park, nearly 600 people stood and sat (if you were lucky) with baited breath to see the Vera Wang Spring 2006 collection. What blew across the runway was tumbleweed.
When you think Vera Wang, you think wedding dresses. An old American Express commercial always appears in my mind with beautiful models ice skating in white satin wedding dresses what that has to do with credit cards, I don't know, but the image is firmly placed. The combination of beautiful women gliding along a flawless white surface dressed in the dress a woman waits to wear her entire life, a stunning and perfect gown, is powerful. And while Vera Wang is not only known for designing wedding dresses, this sleek aesthetic and special feel has translated to the rest of her collections. When you wear a Vera Wang, you are wearing something special, unique and timeless. So you can imagine my surprise to hear that her new collection was partly inspired by the women of HBO's Deadwood.
By mixing humble and sophisticated fabrics, Wang highlighted the contrasting elements of Deadwood's costume design. The women of the rugged western frontier were of desperate times, surviving nature and marshal law. They clung to traditional Victorian themes in fashion as symbols of the world they left behind, filled with culture and grandeur. Soon however, these women and their fashion choices changed and adapted to the raw, untouched new world.
The result on the Vera Wang runway was prairie dresses, oversized nightgowns, and school house dresses. By mixing cotton, silk taffeta and leather, Wang achieved the couture look she was hoping for. It might have been 'haute' but it was definitely not hot. Case in point: Misshappen 'bed jackets' over lush ballgown skirts; any clothing that is made to cover bizarre growths or humps should not be sashayed down the runway.
Okay, yes I am upset but it was not all a wild wild mess. Vera Wang's other major inspiration for her Spring 2006 line was the works of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) who's famous for his Mediterranean seascapes and portrayal of women as exotic romantic creatures. While there were a few paint spills along the way, in the form of taffeta oversized smocks and matching baggy slips, the overall effect was decadent and modern.
Some of my favorite looks from the collection include high-waisted gemstone colored cigarette skirts with romantic, delicate blouses, and exquisitely tailored dresses with chiffon details and empire corseted waists.
Henri Matisse was well known for living his life and creating his art in one of the most politically turbulent times in history. The women of HBO's Deadwood also represent a time of change as the rigid civilization met virgin territory. So perhaps Wang's message is about the beauty of fashion adapting in volatile times, how we all continue to walk with our heads held high in times of war, political uncertainty and natural disaster. Yet it changes us irrevocably, for we wear our hearts not only on our sleeves but on our skirts and in our bags, as we adapt to the future.
Despite stumbling a bit over her inspiration, Wang brings us another classic collection. She uses her established popularity wisely to make a statement and prove that her designs will be part of our future, whatever it may hold.