There is more than enough drama in the world right now, and designers responded by shifting attention from theatrics to clothes, from content creation to craft. “We must cultivate our own garden,” wrote Voltaire, and indeed there is comfort, and order, to be found in work. Like a routine, tailoring provides structure, and various takes on sartorialism defined the season. The #WFH trend continues to disrupt office life, and in looking to deliver viable options, designers leaned on references new (Lydia Tár) and tried and tested (Working Girl, American Psycho, dressing for success). Many were in tune with Tár’s preference for (often monochrome) minimalism. Others seemed to want to challenge power hierarchies by playing with traditionally masculine totems like pinstripes and ties or were focused on rebuilding using the technique of deconstruction.

Reconnection was an imperative of the season. Since the dawn of social media, fashion has become increasingly synonymous with extroverted/performative self-expression: identity as IG moment, as it were. The focus on me has overshadowed we, but fall 2023’s new preoccupation with uniforms, office attire, and bridal wear suggests a longing for community and ritual. Rick Owens put it best: “Conditions in the world being the way they are, it’s kind of a delicate time, and I was thinking I wanted to do something earnest and more formal and more deliberate,” he told Vogue. An example of that formality was a return to a hyperfeminine hourglass silhouette, balancing exaggerated proportions and actual inflatables.

Overall though, there was less hot air this season. Most of us don’t engage with the extremes of fashion yet still want a sprinkling of magic in our day-to-day wardrobes, whether in the form of an unexpected train, a touch of lace, or simply a perfect fit. There’s a lot to be said for feeling at home in your clothes; it makes it easier to shut the door on chaos.

Proenza Schouler, The Row

All Tár, All the Time

Lydia Tár might be a fictional character, but she is a bona fide fashion muse. In no time Tár has become synonymous with a kind of empowered minimalism built mostly around (monochromatic) tailoring (see The Row and Proenza Schouler, for example) that is totally in sync with designers’ instincts to tighten things up and focus on real-world dressing. No fuss but elegant, these relatable pantsuits and greatcoats are instrumental in creating a work-life balance.

Balenciaga, Rick Owens


Coincidence or reaction? With prices still expanding designers explored ever more exaggerated volumes for fall. Sometimes this was achieved by literally blowing up proportions: Demna at Balenciaga and Kim Jones at Dior Men made use of inflatables, and the Dutch newcomer Duran Lantink introduced the idea of soft power, using fiberfill to pad out clothes that looked both powerful and protective.

Chanel, Prada


Trains and streamers snaked down runways behind (and sometimes beside) looks for day and evening. These anachronistic tails speak to fantasies of a digital populace entranced by the red carpet and seductions of fame.

Junya Watanabe, Maison Margiela

Build Back Better

Early-’90s deconstruction was a reaction to the excesses of the decade that preceded it. The French dubbed it la mode destroy, but Martin Margiela, the godfather of the movement, never liked the negative connotation of the word. “When I recut clothes, old or new, it’s to transform them, not destroy them,” he told Vogue in 1992. Working in this tradition for fall, Thom Browne, Junya Watanabe, and Dries Van Noten puzzled together wondrous garments that sparked optimism with their implied belief in the power to rebuild and persevere.

Tory Burch, Bottega Veneta

Siren Call

Lingerie looks came out from under to add a hyperfeminine element to a suiting-led season. The simplicity of grunge-era slip dressing continues to be prevalent, but designers also explored a BUtterfield-8 kind of sultriness with lace embellishments. Bias-cut floor sweepers channeled ’30s glamour.

Saint Laurent, Luar

Power Politics

The pandemic threw corporate structures and dress codes into disarray, leaving us to figure out what dressing for success looks like in a hybrid-work world. The answer is still TBD, but designers like Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent, Luar’s Raul Lopez, and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli leaned into menswear tropes like pinstripes, ties, and tuxes for their womenswear collections, perhaps as a way to try to rebalance traditional power dynamics.

Rodarte, Loewe

Up and Addams

The dark appeal of Wednesday Addams is a much-needed antidote to the Barbie references and bubble-gum pink we’ve seen lately. A good number of collections had an end-of-the-world feeling—these Wednesday sightings were a playful wink of fun.

Versace, Standing Ground

Curve Appeal

The hourglass silhouette of fall 2023 references both Christian Dior’s New Look of 1947 and Martin Margiela’s 1997 Stockman dress-form collection. The Frenchman built up a woman’s curves, and the Belgian took things back to basics. Designers explored both approaches for fall, balancing small waists with bold shoulders (as at Versace) or contrasting them with rounded hips (as was the case with Standing Ground).

Miu Miu, Gucci

Keeping It Real

Fashion’s rush to minimalism is part of a larger reevaluation of the classic wardrobe, including the separates-led Take Ivy look. It’s often said that fashion is like high school, and the prep-meets-street uniforms seen at Gucci, Ambush, and Miu Miu made the grade by offering casual uniforms for work and play.

Bottega Veneta, Paco Rabanne

Drama Queens

The convergence of “The Tudors” exhibition at The Met, the deaths of Vivienne Westwood and Queen Elizabeth II, and the impending coronation are making this a very English moment. Bringing some royal drama to the collections were looks that paid homage to the expanding silhouette (long waist descending into poofy volume) of Elizabeth I and the bulky and tapering girth of Henry VIII. The message? We can all be royals.

Thom Browne, Coach

Central Casting

Theatrical runway presentations may have ceded to more traditional show formats, but that didn’t stop designers from conjuring comic-book heroes, otherworldly creatures, and angels and fairies. Who doesn’t like to play dress-up now and again?

Ester Manas, Altuzarra

Wedding Belles

Weddings are the exception to the rule that escapist fashions don’t suit the times. Designers directed their fantasies into white looks for fall, from the frilly to the fastidious. Aisle-ready they were, but not exclusively. A draped goddess dress, for example, wouldn’t look out of place on the red carpet.