Whew. It’s been a while since glamour—in all its fierce glory—reigned on the runways. I’ll be honest, if you polled a line-up of worldwide Vogue editors on how they felt about the word ‘glamour’ back in 2019, there would have been mixed reactions. Pre-pandemic, the G-word was shorthand for heels that hurt to walk in and a kind-of head-to-toe trussed-up–ness that demanded hard graft (and boob tape). ‘Clean’ style we could get behind. ‘Extra’? Sure. ‘Glamour’? Our perennially sneaker-clad feet and office work schedules didn’t know her.
Fast-forward two years and I’m tempted to drop the S-word (sublime) to describe the mood that swept the AW21 couture runways in Paris this past week where a revolutionary glamour—or as Vogue’s Sarah Mower puts it, “A fierce and noble elegance for our new age”—mounted a stately comeback. Mower was specifically referring to Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga haute couture debut, which, she observed, levelled grandeur with confidence, and a sharp-edged sobriety. This glamour was “cool, self-possessed” and it ricocheted through the audience.
This is your breakdown of the six trends that ruled the season that will go down in fashion lore as the moment of reawakening.
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1. The return of glamour
The Vogue verdict on Kim Jones’ second haute couture collection for Fendi? “Supermodels and ball gowns: Kim Jones is living the haute couture dream.” So, how will that translate to your wardrobe? Look to slashed necklines, second-skin opera gloves and gossamer-like texture. Jones is the master of reimagining the depth and dimensions of clothes that stoke the imagination.
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2. A sweep of blush
Is it even couture if there isn’t a heavy dusting of blush pink? Few, however, do it better than Giambattista Valli, who unveiled a series of plumptuous tulle gowns in confectionery hues to revel in fashion’s buoyant new mood. Playful, much? Absolutely. This season, Valli welcomed an additional, intangible ingredient to satisfy his sweet tooth: mischief. “It’s le goût du louche,” the designer told Vogue during a collection preview at his Rue la Boétie couture salons. “‘A taste for danger,’ you might say.”
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3. The bride who goes all out
Naturally, we couldn’t resist running a full trend analysis on the greatest gowns and knife-sharp tailoring that ruled the AW21 couture runways. For the purposes of your topline takeaway, we’ll be brief. Word to all brides-to-be: scale up your silhouette and rule the day.
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4. Monochromatic drama
High necklines, floor-sweeping lengths, attitudinal peplums and zero adornment—if there’s one lesson to learn from the AW21 couture runways at Balenciaga, Ronald van der Kemp and Alexis Mabille it’s: if in doubt, wear black. Add more black. Then own the room.
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5. Fit to scale
Gowns that champion pillowy volume show no sign of a slowdown among Paris’ most admired couturiers. A staple face at Schiaparelli, American model Maggie Maurer plays muse to the house’s feted creative director Daniel Roseberry and once again made a star turn in Paris this week. Enter ornately gilded denim, architectural blazers and opulently ballooning detailing that beckons to be touched.
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6. Haute cool
It’s not often that haute couture and utility meet on the runway, yet Sacai’s Chitose Abe did just that—guest designing the AW21 Jean Paul Gaultier couture collection and kick-starting JPG’s new concept, which sees a designer he admires take the helm of the couture house each season. Spot the reimagined trench coats and layered corsetry that’s guaranteed to quicken the pulses of Gaultier’s die-hard Depop fanbase.