Cosy women: Comfort and femininity at Paris Fashion Week AW14
‘Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die.’
Long before, and ever since Louisa May Alcott wrote of the two March sisters in Little Women diligently preparing for the New Year’s Eve party, comfort has been regarded as a necessary sacrifice for female elegance.
This all changed at this season’s Paris Fashion Week, which saw a collective celebration of comfort and femininity. Instead of the polar bears and grunge-romance that have emerged as common themes in Paris in the past, this year was about the average woman going about her everyday life. The models of Comme des Garcons were wrapped in knotted sweaters, while those of Stella McCartney strutted down the catwalk in baggy pullovers and cross-body bags. The outfits on display – long and loose coats, padded jackets and sweaters, fleeces and robes that looked like fancy snugs – though as striking as ever were not incompatible with activities such as ironing or doing the weekly grocery shop.
The lasting image of Paris 2014 is likely to be the chic supermarché created by Karl Lagerfeld, down the glistening aisles of which the Chanel Yummy Mummies browsed for products such as ‘Lait de Coco.’ Amongst the knitwear and loose jumpers some of these women wore urban, sporty outfits in charcoal grey, dropping into their shopping trolleys Mademoiselle Privé floor mats and chainsaw handbags. Others wore bunches of pearls around their necks, like the cultured ones found here from Mesenso, which perhaps more than anything else contrasted with the image of school runs and the washing line. In addition to the pearls Chanel’s collection also included silver foil overcoats and padlock necklaces.
Chanel in Paris this year was very much about bringing haute couture down to reality. At Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2014 show Lagerfeld said that the clothes that ‘everyone wears in daily life’ inspired the collection. The show began with Cara Delevingne in sparkling trainers running down a flight of stairs as casual as, as Lagerfeld put it, ‘a woman who is opening the door to her boyfriend.’
Christian Dior bucked the trend as Raf Simons dressed his models in bright coats over vibrant mini-skirts. Issey Miyake also took another path with the theme Rhythmatic Forest. Though there was plenty of femininity in Simon’s cashmere wraps and throws, one would struggle to imagine the Miyake models in their pleated jackets and high leather boots reclining on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon or herding children to school.
The prevalence of knitwear and soft fabrics couldn’t be stifled however, marking a significant shift in the city. It appears that Paris is past its love affair with androgyny that it has swooned over for so long. Now begins the celebration of women as women: cosy, confident and proving that it is possible to be both comfortable and elegant at the same time.