The duchess satin ball gown sweeps the runway almost touching my shoes and I wonder why this Brooklyn girl— who has only been to a gala as a journalist, gets invited to fashion shows where these floor sweeping dresses are the norm. I’m really on the other side of the parties as a fashion stylist— either I’m finding the perfect dress for a celebrity or creating fashion stories on models that depict a Cinderella fairy tale. But after the runway shows and gawking at the celebrity front rows, I turn into a pumpkin and back to my home in Brooklyn with teens in high school and chickens in the backyard. My first fall 2023 NYFW show was at the master of evening himself, Christian Siriano, where I sensed a ramped-up excitement for dressing-up both on the runway and front row. The idea of evening dressing has steadily heightened since the pandemic put a halt to life, but now that there is less worry about the dreaded virus, people are ready for celebrations and events—and part of that fun is ‘what will I wear?’
Gotham Hall was outfitted with a botanical garden to reflect the theme of Audrey Hepburn’s Garden At Midnight. Julia Stiles, Quinta Brunson and Lindsay Lohan sat front row, looking giddy and excited—If I didn’t know better I would have thought it was their first fashion show. And I get it—I always feel excited and honored to attend this beautiful show. Siriano’s dresses are so divine whether it’s a tulle wrapped mermaid gown or his deftly draped bubble dresses— one in banana yellow and one in a pearly white. But there were other dramatic looks and ideas like the flying saucer hats covered in matching fabric that stood out. No one can do a mermaid fishtail gown like Siriano. His evening wear is second to none.
Bibhu Mohapatra ‘s muse for his 2023 fall collection was the heiress Nancy Cunnard who is known for her avant-garde style and political activism. With this in mind he included day looks although there were plenty of dresses and gowns. His palette mix is unusual but the combos looked fresh and individualist. The boots from Daniella Shevel added a hipster vibe to the evening looks.
Although it is difficult to find a discernible trend at evening wear shows, because designers present a variety of shapes and silhouettes to attract their clientele, there was a mini-movement that stood out. The shoulder trains or split sleeves that drape like a train seems to be taking over evening wear along with the ubiquitous transparency trend. Pamela Roland is one that has adopted this and incorporated it successfully into her looks. She remains strong in her evening kingdom with many adoring fans attending her show. Her short evening dresses were a stand out—which were structured into a strong silhouette using beaded and sequins fabrics that hit the right note.
It’s always an event at Dennis Basso’s show and this fall was no exception. The party atmosphere at the Park Ave event space and former church, was no doubt because Basso is a New York institution. He once again celebrated his 40 years in the fashion industry ( why not?) along with his many socialite friends. He included furs in his collection even though many retailers have stopped selling them. But Basso’s beginnings were as a New York furrier and he is unafraid of including them. There were statement gowns, pantsuits, trench coats along with his luxurious furs. Beverly Johnson walked the last look and then took a bow with Basso at the show’s end.
Chiara Boni LaPetite Robe took an edgy dark route taking inspo from Helmut Newton’s seductive imagery. Leather harnesses, corsets, chokers, opera length gloves and cutouts were some of the details that contrasted her precise tailoring and body-con looks.
Talented designer newcomer Bach Mai had an atmospheric and dramatic presentation that evoked an underwater sea dream which he called Cave of the Sirens. The presentation was moody and theatrical and the dresses were innovative and fresh. He continues to evolve into a significant and very creative stop on the NYFW schedule. It’s so great to see a fresh point of view on evening wear.
Sally Lapointe’s vibrantly colored monochrome wardrobe continues to be a stand out. Her recipe includes a pinch of feathers or sparkle, a dash of great tailoring and a big dose of vibrant color which is a proven success with celebrities and retailers. She recently started a cool-girl bridal collection for the subversive types that shouldn’t be missed.
Cinq A Sept’s intimate presentation was held at the recently renovated Chelsea Hotel. As usual there were very wearable party dresses but many had complimentary coats or jacket toppers. This contemporary collection looks as fresh as ever. It’s no surprise why it is so successful at retail.
Designer Frederick Anderson is celebrating a Renaissance. It’s been 5 years since he launched his namesake collection and although he’s had some Covid related health challenges he feels blessed to have survived—both personally and business-wise. His signature is using a mix of lace, with hand-crochet, silks and other couture fabrics into dresses and evening pantsuits. He included several mens looks with the same signature fabrics that he used for the girls. At the end, Anderson came out jubilant and beaming—it is clear he is proud of his 5 year achievements.
Kevan Hall has been designing for decades, each season refining his collection. He called his fall ’23 show, Faceted, which gives a nod to the gemstone palette of Rubies, Onyx, Emeralds and Amethyst in his collection of evening looks. This was one of his strongest collections yet.