By the time the spangled, skin-tight sheath snakes down the runway — really an aisle through two rows of luncheon tables — the cone of French fries in front of me is just about empty. L’Wren Scott feeds her jaded audience lunch, and if that is not inducement enough, Mick Jagger is dining with us. But as I stuff my face, and admire a beaded fire-engine-red cardigan, and gaze with a little less enthusiasm at a hard blue velvety frock coat, my mind drifts to the designer herself.
In this season of flapper dresses — paging Daisy Buchanan! — Scott is in truth rather a Jay Gatsby-esque character. Her nutty name was not bestowed at birth, and she has managed to obscure, even in this information age, most of the details of her biography, like James Gatz himself. Scott appears to have sprung full-grown, a willowy aristocrat on the arm of one of the most famous men in the world, but of course this is not the case. In fact, she was born Luann Bambrough and raised in Utah.
Ralph Lauren, a guy who has worshiped the twenties aesthetic since he started out in the business (in fact, he worked on some of the costumes for the 1974 Gatsby film) stays true to his affection this season, bringing out a surfeit of creamy, satiny, beaded, and feathered evening frocks — and if it’s a bit of a greatest-hits album, so what? Laure,n too, is a uniquely American character, a self-made dreamer with a frothy vision and an iron will, though his back story is far less mysterious than Scott’s — he was born in the Bronx as Ralph Lifshitz, and he made his fortune by convincing Americans that upper-class wardrobe affectations are a patrimony that can be claimed by all of us, regardless of origin or income.
It seems intentional that the very pretty boudoir-influenced dresses at Calvin Klein are as pale as the models — in a snowstorm a few feet away they would appear stark naked. It would be nice to see at least one or two of these ensembles on a woman with darker skin, and later in the show a couple of non-Caucasians do show up on the CK runway.
But alas, as ever, white blondes dominate on so many catwalks. A colleague suggests this may be because the industry is preoccupied at the moment with “healthy” models. (Like we can’t do both? And while we’re at it, shouldn’t these women be at least 18? And shouldn’t they be paid, even if it’s only the minimum wage, instead of being fobbed off with clothes in some cases and in others, compensated with absolutely nothing?)
Marc Jacobs, who traditionally shows on Monday night, instead occupies the last time slot of the week, his clothes having been waylaid by the earthquake, or the hurricane, or something. In its breathtaking theatricality, it’s a highly anticipated coda to a series of collections that have been — let’s face it — pallid and a little dull. And he doesn’t disappoint: Jacobs literally raises a golden curtain to reveal models in a tableaux vivante on a faux stage. They subsequently peel off one by one, walking a circular wooden runway under a string of lights that seem meant to evoke a dressing room makeup mirror.
These ladies, too, are sporting those enduring tropes of the Jazz Age — the waistless dresses; spring’s 2012 ubiquitous fringe; bandeaux encircling pretty heads; etc. — but this time filtered through an almost sixties groovy-mod sensibility. Which is not say their raiments resemble in any way vintage clothing or thrift shop finds — in fact these delectable garments are made in many cases of fabrics infused with silicone and plastic, materials that were inconceivable in Twiggy’s time, let alone the days when Zelda Fitzgerald walked the earth.