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Arts in Review

Haute Stuff: Ballet, Mad Men, and motorcycles at New York fashion week

For those of you who aren’t reality show junkies, you’ve probably still seen Christian Siriano’s work over the last few years. He’s had a collection on Bluefly, collaborated with everyone from Starbucks to Payless Shoes, and has debuted collections at the last three New York Fashion Weeks. His collection at this year’s NYFW has been widely celebrated, praised by critics and fashionistas for its clean lines and romantic styling.

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By Karen Aney (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: September 19, 2012

“Hot mess.” You’ve probably heard the phrase before – and likely fairly recently. If you have, then you have designer Christian Siriano to thank. It was his catch phrase when he was on season four of Project Runway, and it was terms like that which endeared judges and audiences alike. He not only won the design competition, but he also won the “fan favourite” component of the show, earning himself an extra $10,000 on top of the competition’s core prizes.

For those of you who aren’t reality show junkies, you’ve probably still seen Siriano’s work over the last few years. He’s had a collection on Bluefly, collaborated with everyone from Starbucks to Payless Shoes, and has debuted collections at the last three New York Fashion Weeks. His collection at this year’s NYFW has been widely celebrated, praised by critics and fashionistas for its clean lines and romantic styling.

The show, as Siriano explained to Style.com backstage, was inspired by an American Ballet Theatre performance of The Dream. Siriano, who studied ballet as a young boy, explains his collection as the modern woman’s interpretation of the classical ballerina styling.

Though he cites the ballet as his inspiration, the silhouettes were very expected: peplums, cropped pants, structured jackets – all this season’s “must-haves” were included. Before hearing Siriano’s description of his inspiration, I figured it was a modern, romantic interpretation of Mad Men. Not Joan, with her voluptuous figure highlighted by skin-tight ensembles, but Betty Draper: pretty, feminine, clean lines with indulgent detailing and classic sixties silhouettes.

The show progressed from its start, with a cropped pant-and-top combo of pale pink with polka dots, to the showpieces. Traditionally, the most impressive piece of a runway show is the one modeled last. However, Siriano’s show ended with three models walking the runway together; their dresses, while different, were all of the same ilk: tulle, silk chiffon, hand-sewn delicate feathers and exquisitely draped silhouettes, perfectly evocative of the ballerina inspiration, yet completely wearable for today’s woman. Of particular interest was the pseudo-shading effect achieved with the draped fabric; this was done artfully, so it accented the models’ natural waists, evoking a true hourglass even on the expectedly svelte models.

To incorporate this into your wardrobe, look to the silhouettes. Almost everything in the collection focused on a defined waist – whether it was the natural waist (read: the bottom of your ribcage) or a slightly dropped one (across the top of your hipbones).

Siriano himself cites jackets as a must-have for fall. His show featured leather motorcycle-esque jackets in pale pink and blue, and a polka-dot jacket with moto detailing. A plain black leather jacket will achieve the same effect and have more staying power for the investment.

For pants, check out clearance racks now. Retailers are currently clearing out cropped jeans and dress pants for the oncoming colder months, but you’ll be able to wear these bottoms (which hit 4-5 inches above the ankle) with flats for the next little while and tucked into boots when the temperature drops.

The peplum top (a form-fitting shirt with a small “skirt” starting at the natural waist and ending above the hips) is one look that perhaps isn’t worth the investment: though it’s hot this season, it seems kind of impractical to have staying power. If you want to hop on board, try H&M: they have peplum tops for less than $20 in a number of colours and patterns (including polka dots). If you want more pairing options, try tucking the shirt into a high-waisted skirt – this will hide the “peplum” part of the top while still staying on-trend by defining your natural waist. Just don’t wear it with sweatpants and fur boots – or you’ll be the hot mess.

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