Kristin Clotilde Holby for Ralph Lauren Fall/Winter 1983.
Ralph Lauren apparently thought he was opening up new vistas when he chose the Seventh Regiment Armory as the site of his fall fashion show, and certainly its vast space could accommodate the crowds. But you couldn’t reach out and touch the clothes or even tell for sure what they were made of. It wasn’t a cozy atmosphere and probably neither Christian Dior’s New Look collection nor Yves Saint Laurent’s rich peasant clothes could have survived this arena.
But Mr. Lauren certainly tried. He sent out on the runway what some spectators felt were three different collections, not counting the men’s clothes, which were interspersed with the women’s fashions.
The first scene was a family affair and the liveliest. It consisted of ski clothes for a family in which everybody goes to the slopes. The most interesting designs were the hand-knit sweaters with colorful cartoons of skiers decorating the fronts.
After that initial exuberance, the mannequins affected a slouchy, casual stance well suited to the understated clothes that seemed directed at the horsy set. Except for a few long pleated skirts that looked attractive with navy Shaker-knit pullovers and tweed jackets, pants were worn with everything, including good-looking casual double-breasted coats.
The tailored coat-dresses that Mr. Lauren pioneered are back in single-and double-breasted versions in gray flannel and brown tweed. The tailored clothes were followed by playful brightly colored ponchos over hooded tops and jersey pants and by equally bright suede tunics. Then came the evening clothes.
from FALL FASHION: SERIOUS ABOUT SPORTSWEAR by BERNADINE MORRIS for NYT April 27, 1983
Speaking of camp, for his Fall/Winter 2011 presentation, Thom Browne laid it on thick, setting his bizzaro American bourgeois fantasy and Charles Jamesian shapes against a backdrop of christian piety ala Maria of the Sound of Music, Gospel, and Aretha Franklin. You can deduce that maybe Browne doesn’t take himself too seriously, utilizing the format of a fashion show to entertain as well as display clothes — he has fun with them and intends for his audience to have fun as well. In what has become true Thom Browne style; a bricolage technique of mixing and merging a variety of loosely connected references, the effect is something as humorous as it is terrifying, as deceptive as it is alluring, and as subversive as it is conservative. There is nothing explicitly unsettling or bold in Browne’s clothes yet they are still so shockingly distinct and unprecedented. He is a master of hyperbole, whether it is in the theatrics of his show (perhaps the only real one left in town) or in his overzealous yet skillful use of trim and details (his unfettered placement of his tri-color tape to brand plackets, vents, tabs, loops, bags, and jewelry should be disastrous but actually look quite good), or in his choice of makeup (the model’s exaggerated eyelashes render them hysterical cartoon versions of a woman), Browne utilizes the expressive qualities of gesture and symbols, playing on their scale and contrast, with potent results. The camp and kitsch push towards a heightened intellectual awareness, if you can believe it (Elsa Schiaparelli did, Miuccia Prada does), shifting their meaning, re-appropriated in his language of country clubs, Sunday school, constipated conservative suiting, just as laughable feminine banality, and musical theater. In his efforts to reconcile his own autobiographical narrative with the contemporary challenge to redefine and make relevant American dress, Browne has become a sort of post-modern Ralph Lauren, and with his first full show for women he’s brought that charm to the other sex. Bravo.