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London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: Caroline Charles

A long glance back at the past with Caroline Charles' riviera ladies, September 17th 2010.

Written by Satu Fox

Illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

We’re seeing a bit of every decade this season and for Caroline Charles, it was the 1950s, with hats set at jaunty angles and prim belts with bows on. The happy sounds of the decade on the soundtrack helped to set the scene and the models looked as if they came from an era when Vogue still had illustrated covers and women had time to set their hair. It’s always interesting to see a high-quality collection that is directly influenced by a previous era because it is by necessity always a pastiche – genuine vintage ensembles from a supposedly beloved decade often disappoint because they look wrong to us; a hem is unflatteringly long or the whole outfit is too baggy. Our ideas about what looks attractive and fashionable have undergone a seachange.

Illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

It also comes with political baggage. Fashion is a female dominated industry after all and yet clothes aren’t always kind to us. Dressing as if you come from any time before the feminist movement can smack of denialism; it really wasn’t that wonderful to be a woman before the sexual revolution, as anyone who watches Mad Men will agree. A poodle skirt appeals because it comes from a supposedly more innocent time, one we might want to identify with, but 1950s cheesecake America is a construct, one that was created partly through fashion.

Illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

Charles avoids infantilising pin-up girl style or cheerleader kitsch, preferring instead to dress a slicker and more mature woman. By incorporating glitter she makes the collection contemporary and made the 1950s seem fresh instead of dusty and dated. There was even a flash of knicker under a mesh tutu and, stop me if I’m getting too academic about this, but in a season where Mad Men is a recurring inspiration, perhaps rather than reproducing a 1960s aesthetic she picked up on the show’s ability to make an old decade we think we know inside out appear new again. After all, if you lived through the 1950s, you were as excited and surprised by new shapes and trends as we are in 2010.


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