Another Era Of Feminist Fashion Is Here: Renaissance Reloaded

As designers continue to look toward the future, something has them holding on to the past.

The idea that fashion seeks to extend and accentuate what happens in the soul is true. In fact, during Fashion Month, it couldn’t be more obvious: designers use fashion to transcend politics, culture, and entertainment (sometimes all at once) and they make us rethink what people want to wear (and sometimes, ourselves). But the notion that clothes are made to free and unleash our inner venturer or romantic is a modern idea. Notably for women, fashion was once incredibly restrictive.

Throw it back to the Renaissance: Corsets, petticoats, head dresses, stockings, and more weren’t just heavy on the body, but they rejected sex appeal. What’s more — Sumptuary laws, or laws that restrained luxury or extravagance in the forms of apparel, food, and any other inordinate expenditures, put limits on fashion; they (literally) told people what to wear. To put it into perspective, if those laws were around today, there’d be no such thing as the influencer or luxury resale sites. Luxury would still be luxurious.

But, for some reason, designers like Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim behind Oscar de la Renta, Julien Dossena of Paco Rabanne, Zimmermann, and more are tapping into the Baroque and putting their inherently feminist stroke on Medieval patterns and silhouettes. Nicolas Ghesquiere’s latest Louis Vuitton offering, for example, featured less dresses in a resort collection than there were pieces that embody the complete antithesis of that, like a pair of broad shoulders atop a Claude Montana-leaning blazer or military elements reflected in strapped pants and baggy, square-cut shorts.

Because pointed toe shoes didn't come from your grandma.
Photo: Jason Kim

Or take the ubiquitous prairie dress, for instance, that populated the runways and newsfeeds last summer and still just won’t quit. Labels like Brock Collection, Area, and Emilia Wickstead sent the trendy item down their fall runways again, only this time with sinister updates, in jewel tones that went even deeper (and sometimes jet black, complimented by lace details whose sheen rivals gold vermeil) and corsets that weren’t constricting whatsoever — they were completely see-through. Yet come time for Paris Fashion Week, such decadence was replaced with futuristic, sturdy ready-to-wear that was almost too cool for school.

As for why an industry that touts its ability to look forward every chance it gets would turn around and look back is an answer that’s better found in history books. Sure, legitimate rights for women aren’t even a century old, but the Renaissance era — despite the rampant gender inequality that’d go on to last for eons longer — was a liberating time for women.

So, it’s only fitting, then, that designers have forged the connection between its extravagance and a deeper meaning. Hear ye, hear ye — a reloaded Renaissance of sorts could be upon us.

Story Credits
Related Articles