Paris Fashion Week embraces 'strict'

The New York Times published the shots below from Fashion Week in Paris with the headline "Minimalism, and Plenty of It". Yes, camels and taupe everywhere for Fall '10, but also the all-black will not show up in these thumbnails.

re's a real-life woman attending the Balenciaga show, in a discreet black suit that I'd love to wear into the ground. (Photo courtesy Maison Chaplin).

Seems 'strict' has moved from the margins as women require more of their clothes than a trophy brand or one-season trend.
Below, a trio of the best from show favourites.

1. Chloé, wool blouse and skirt edged in leather, a triu
mph of subtlety, a "lesson in chic understatement".

2. Stella McCartney taupe wool coat with notched detail.

3. Sonia Rykiel taupe coat; look at the bellowed pockets. Nice to see this house back in top form.

Where can a woman on a budget find such quiet beauty?

Strict wears its heart on a very precisely set sleeve, so the price point tends to float up till it edges out of sight like a helium balloon that slipped from your hand. While some reject anything but the best (and have achieved that handful-of-exquisite-clothes satori), many of us mix it up, choosing where to spend.

Several ready-to-wear designers have stepped up to the new minimal. None are low-priced– you can't, as the saying goes, get there from here.

MaxMara: Dependably well-made, with many minimal pieces in the MaxMara, Weekend and (for size 10US and up) Marina Rinaldi lines. Hardly 'budget', but a lower price point than Chloé. Shown, wool/silk stretch wool jacket $1,240 from Saks.

Joining her compatriots, Vivienne Westwood turns in some strict surprises in her Anglomania label.

A draped jersey dress in the kind of off-colour that's an emblem of high price points, a rose-brown, $460, from Net-a-porter.

And my heart beat faster for this Anglomania Propaganda jacket, $1,145 at Net-a-porter.

Local designers like the beloved Judy Cornish and Joyce Gunhouse of Comrags have always championed minimal, refined styles.

Comrags do not, I admit, work in the gossamer cashmere and liquid charmeuse of Celine, but still turn out chic clothes priced in the hundreds rather than thousands. Shown, suit from the Spring '10 collection.

Lida Baday is renowned Canadian designer, sold internationally, with a grasp on the minimalist approach, and superb execution. This asymmetric satin black jersey dress, $750, is from the spring offerings sold at Holt Renfrew. (My only issue with her is that her sizes stop at a narrowish US10.)

Look around your nearest city for local designers who understand this aesthetic and have the advanced skills to execute. They are often just below the radar, advertising minimally or not at all.

More than merely soft

Bold Strict is disciplined ease. This contradiction defines it and separates it from, for example, Eileen Fisher's flowy, rectangular cuts.

Talbot's jacket shown (available in May) is softly tailored, but does not channel the essence of the current minimalism. And I'll admire it on the woman who passes me on the street. It's pretty, wearable– and what the workplace likes.

Strict isn't everyone's style; some women take a damn-the-torpedoes stance toward decoration or prefer more pops of colour.

However, some of the most ecstatic reviews for what's being shown in Paris this week are for the quietest designs since Calvin Klein held a pencil and made minimalist magic. (I could barely afford them, but they were always perfect.)

Aren't we all just wanting to breathe more easily in our clothes?


The Talbots jacket would be so much nicer without the ruffle. Not quite strict, but a flattering style for many.

I like strict, but I don't have the body for it. One need not be extremely slim, but I don't see it working well on curvy bodies of any size.

That pinky-brown is a wonderful colour, or "non-colour"
Duchesse said…
lagatta: The curvy woman need only look for clean lines and unembellished very good fabrics to interpret 'strict' for herself. Don't be dissuaded by the runway reeds. Did you see Merly Streep in "It's Complicated" in her navy suit or all-white ensemble? Simplicity on a mature woman- I loved it.

Talbots do a lot of ruffle, I'm sure their focus groups like them. This sort of look always reminds me of the upscale American suburbs. Nice, 'lady', very wearable, nothing too avant-garde.
mette said…
Great post once again! I like the new minimal as I understand it. I would rather use accessories highlighting the outfit. You have to f e e l comfortable in your clothes. I try not to follow the trends, but unavoidably, shops push these on. However, with some patience, it is still possible to find some minimal classics, classics with still an edge!
BigLittleWolf said…
Love these examples of quiet chic that you are showing from Paris Fashion Week. It's a relief to see a shift to colors and styles that would work on women of nearly any age, and a variety of shapes and statures.

I also find the Talbots example very "Talbots." It's not my style per se, and doesn't work for those of us who are well endowed and otherwise ultra-petite (my euphemism for vertically challenged). But to see the minimal lines in general, suitable for so many ages and occasions, is most welcome.

Lovely picks.
Tish Jett said…
What a perfect post. You've translated the trends magnificently, AND you're talking about investment pieces so a little more spent wisely will pay off over and over and over.

I could scoop-up every one of your favorites. For the last couple of seasons I've been swooning over the designs from Chloe although it's not in the cards until I win the lottery.

BTW, you made my day today. Merci mille fois.

P.S.:Yes, I have my share of grays in all its incarnations and of course, navy. Nice and safe all of them. . .
LPC said…
I am a huge fan of strict, finding it to be, for me, the kindest, gentlest style. I relax when my clothes are simple. I love it when simple is also luxe. That's very often hard to find at low price points, as you note. I am not a curvy human, it's true, and the widest point of my body is my shoulders. Because of this, strict clothes tend to give me the cleanest and still most feminine appearance. Too much drape and I look and feel like curtains.
materfamilias said…
If I had discipline and several parallel lifetimes, I'd aim for this aesthetic -- so quietly, self-possessedly sophisticated. That probably surprises you, given that I often show whimsical as much as classical, and I love colour and print. What can I say? I'm eclectic! Thanks for this post -- such an inspiring collection of looks.
Mardel said…
Your choices are fabulous and they are all things I would love to choose and own, even though my admiration for strict remains more admiration than inspiration. I like many of the neutrals, that rose-brown dress and grayed plums are constants in my wardrobe, but I can't do strictly strict, having accepted that it is just not me. Perhaps in another life if I lived in another city our if I could outgrow my Southern love of color.

Still, I adore all your posts on the strict aesthetic.

The Talbots jacket looks very Talbots to me, although the color is more neutral
spacegeek said…
Have you been into an Ann Taylor this spring? The color palette immediately brought to mind your definition of "strict". If I understand you. :-)
The first image of the suit speaks to me...tres chic. Simplicity in color and line, is for me, the backdrop, a canvas waiting for decoration, be it a scarf casually tied or masses of pearls, maybe a vintage pink or a great bag...and something simple can be worn so many different ways.
You've given us another brilliant insight into the world of fashion.
oops...Vintage pink! LOL
I meant a vintage PIN!
Duchesse said…
metscan: Perhaps retailers are desperate to make money again, so push trends?

BigLittleWolf: Talbot's Look Book, with Dale Haddon in classics, draws me in, but end up with only stretch wool pants. But did saw a good sweater- will include in a post next week.

Tish: Am in same boat! My lottery spree would be van Noten.

LPC: With those shoulders simple well cut clothes hang beautifully!

materfamilias: Designers have to pick their aesthetic and define their customers, but we don't! Am leaning toward simpler, though- more all the time.

spacegeek: No Ann Taylor here (Toronto) so I am guessing you mean lots of neutrals.

Mardel: We have colour loving women here in the North, too. Funny, writing that realize I've given away every last red garment I owned.

hostess: Given your preference, I'd call that 'semi-strict'. Note, no scarves or pins on the runway shots. I too will add accessories, especially pearls, to mitigate the austerity. And some women will not, looking like exceptionally chic members of a wealthy religious order.
Susan B said…
Great coverage, Duchesse! You've really picked the creme de la creme here. I've begun collecting pictures for my own "lookbook" in an effort to do some *very* targeted shopping next season. I'm hoping the camel color we're seeing in all of the coverage will appear on retailers' racks in the fall.

And Max Mara is my new obsession. Unfortunately, they mostly do coats which we don't have too much call for here, but I'm also stalking them regularly for jackets and tops. Haven't found the perfect one yet, but between MM and Emporio Armani, am hoping to make some seriousn upgrades.
Nancy K said…
Celine is my current favorite in this resurgence of minimalism. I am planning my spring wardrobe with knockoffs from my own hands. Though, a little more frivolity is likely to creep in.
M said…
I'm just curious....who came up with the label "strict"? I would more inclined to call it quiet, elegant, uncluttered, streamlined and confident. As you can tell, I love this style of dressing.
Tiffany said…
Oh my goodness, I think I have to have that Vivienne Westwood dress. Someone offer me a justification ... Great post, as always - I am always inspired by your fashion posts.
Duchesse said…
Pseu: There's a big MaxMara here and I have found linen pieces in summer- so hope they are in your store too.

Nancy K: I love Celine too- what discreet elegance.

Lisa: I did- see my other postings under "strict" in the index and you'll learn the genesis.

From the NY Times article on Wed. March 10 about Paris Fashion Week, "Can Sackcloth have Fur Trim?" Eric Wilson writes, "The words 'monastic', 'stark', 'strict', 'severe' and 'discipline' have been employed so frequently to describe women's clothes here..."

tiffany: If you think so, act fast,. Net-a-porter runs out of stock in a flash!
Belle de Ville said…
Wonderful post, I'm ready to have camels, navy, gray and black in my wardrobe.
As a fan of quality I've always had an appreciation for the fine fabrics used by Max Mara. I've never actually seen a piece from the Anglomania line, but the clothes look beutiful online and I love the jacket that you posted.
Tiffany said…
So sad, out of my size ... Saved by the time difference, I guess!
Duchesse said…
tiffany: If you wish, you could search for the dress with other vendors.
M said…
Ok, strict it is! But, I feel as though I should be holding a ruler at the ready just in case I need to swat somebody's hand :)
s. said…
Does Comrags make clothes for tall size 16s? When I was younger, I used to lust for their clothes which were out of my financial reach. Sadly, as my bank account grew, so did my girth, and there are too many clothes I now don't even bother to dream about.
Duchesse said…
s: They make 16s but the dresses and skirts are short for me; depending on fabric stock they will sometimes make one for you longer, according to the sales staff. The tops are fine.
LaurieAnn said…
Duchesse: Have you had a chance to look at the Dries Van Noten show from this recent fashion week? He snuck a few strict pieces in as well. I absolutely love the Anglomania jacket you featured. That jacket is in my "wish" file for the day when I can find a good dressmaker to custom make one for me with the shoulders and buttons in just the right place.
Duchesse said…
LaurieAnn: The Indian textiles! The ikats! This collection makes me breathless. In heaven my wardrobe will be these clothes.

You like that jacket too? We can both get them made.
Anonymous said…
You just made me realize: I hate ruffles!
Anonymous said…
Ay yay yay, what am I to do? You've got me on a Vivienne Westwood obssession!

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