The Reshaping of Couture: A Reflection on the Fall 2021 Season

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When we talk about couture, we are really talking about shape-shifting. It’s not only that silhouettes change, but we periodically reconfigure the meaning we assign to couture as well. And often this is related to changes in the ways we look at women’s bodies and roles in society. At around the same time that Coco Chanel introduced the streamlined, cylindrical, and somewhat androgynous silhouette, American women had gained suffrage and the Model T was being mass-produced. Society, and women, were on the move. The postwar yearning for a “return to normalcy” saw a retrograde take on gender (see Revolutionary Road), supported by the heavily architected New Look by Christian Dior. You get the idea.

We didn’t get a single new silhouette for fall 2021, but we did get a reshaping of couture on material and conceptual levels—along with four debuts.

There was young Andrea Brocca, the Sri Lankan–Italian designer, who explored the golden mean, and the experienced Pieter Mulier, who stepped out at Azzedine Alaïa with a collection that included retakes of specific archival pieces (like perforated leather corset belts) but also captured some of the spirit of the late designer’s body-con dressing. This, at a time that “sexy” dressing is being reimagined apart from the male gaze.

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