Satin dresses with pouf skirts, ear-grazing shoulder pads, heavily moussed, asymmetrical hair ... We didn't need Marc Jacobs to tell us that the inspiration for his fall 2009 collection was the eighties. Backstage, the designer called it a time "when creative people could afford to live in this city," and he looked ecstatic at the prospect that "it might be happening again."
(It surely isn't just the economy that has Jacobs looking back, however: A recent reissue of his Stephen Sprouse for Louis Vuitton collaboration was clearly knocking around his creative conscience.)
There's one little hitch with that idea: None of the creative types everyone is breathlessly waiting to welcome back to town could possibly afford these clothes. And even if they could, it's unlikely that primary-colored felt coats with loaf-of-bread shoulders — however nicely realized — would become their fetish objects.
But if it's the spirit of New York at its most creative that Jacobs hoped to summon, he did so in spades. The designer is forever reaching back, summoning up specific emotional splinters in time, and turning them into clothes. His skill is to keep these journeys from feeling literal or sentimental, and to make them look modern.
Jacobs is at his best when he mixes and layers his references, which he didn't much do tonight. But he did make the eighties fresh, with looks like the pleat-front, high-waisted jeans that he kept miraculously narrow and paired with a simple, round-necked black silk top. It'll do while we wait for the good times again.