The pleated wool skirt in Tory Burch’s opening look was held together with a large safety pin, the waistband more than an inch or two askew. In the looks that followed, satin dresses were worn back-to-front, belts were barely holding on, pumps walked out with one broken heel (“a feat or engineering,” Burch said), and it looked like one of the double Ts on a handbag had come loose.
Burch was toying with the notion of perfection. “I wanted to challenge the concept of traditional femininity and beauty and twist it,” she said. Why? “I don’t think women want rules anymore.” Burch herself would seem to be chafing against them. Since the pandemic, she’s been talking up Claire McCardell, the American sportswear pioneer who gave women the popover dress 75 years ago, and channeling the freedom of her own early years in the New York of the 1990s with stretchy mix-and-match layers. She was tapping into similar instincts here with sweaters that featured pre-scrunched sleeves and power mesh dresses with built-in padding to accentuate the hips—useful wardrobe shortcutsstripped of old-fashioned proprieties.
It’s hard to imagine those padded hips in a Tory Burch collection of five years ago, but even as she’s become more daring (she handed over control of the business side of the brand to her husband Pierre Yves Roussel in 2019, thus freeing her to focus on design), she’s doubled-down on practicality. The building blocks of this collection—handsome sweaters and midi skirts, neatly cut blazers, button-downs, and straight-leg trousers—would look familiar to McCardell. The outerwear in particular was strong; a navy peacoat with a brown shearling collar and a wool tweed coat with what looked like more of that padding at the hips were two of the stars.
For evening, Burch’s proposal was to expose the thing that women traditionally hide—their shapewear. This idea worked insofar that the power mesh and satin camisoles were modeled on mid-century styles, when indeed those unmentionables were kept firmly under wraps. Women today, of course, expose their shapewear every time they leave the house in a job bra and performance leggings. But with their stitched floral appliqués and undone hooks and eyes they did prove Burch’s point: that we’re perfectly imperfect and that vulnerability can be our strength.
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This story was originally published on Vogue.com.