There is an iconic picture of Slim Keith in a 1949 magazine issue where the young socialite poses in profile, a boxy, rust-colored jacket framing her visage. Keith, the original “California” girl who made good and married rich, was a favorite of many editors at that time and found in many a magazine’s pages. She was part of Truman Capote’s gaggle of “Swans”, a rich, intellectual group of socialties with last names that granted them access to the world’s most elite tables. Capote would later argue that it was only the very, very rich who could afford true style, and Keith was a tastemaker of the highest order. For that reason, she came to influence Jason Wu’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection, as he reflected on the kind of refined, feminine attire Capote’s socialite “Swans” might be wearing today. Working in a subdued, earthier palette, Wu’s effervescent layered ruffles, cropped lengths, and slim silhouettes formed a triumvirate of fine taste.
To put a contemporary spin on his ruffled looks, Wu gave each ripple a raw finish that allowed his pieces to float softly down the runway. Raw finishes soon gave way to highly polished cropped separates with lampshade sleeves and ruffled flanks, each trimmed with smooth acres of contrast piping. Whether raw or finished, each look made a polished, elegant statement on the runway. His specialty for the season was raffia-woven organza material, which comprised a majority of the looks and imparted to each a luxurious sheen.
The longer you look at this collection, the more Wu’s genius comes into focus. He excels at the deftest balance between the commercial and the high fashion with a smart mix of looks that offer restrained glamour for day, delicate transparency for evening, and tougher looks for the edgy crowd. Smart separates shared the runway with gauzy, sheer slip dresses and oversized suiting — offering lots of options for the glamorous gal-about-town. Trousers, however, were unfortunate in that they were high-waisted, pleated, and tapered at the ankle, which means only the slimmest figure could wear them without appearing pear shaped. And for all the ruffles, there was more of a wow-factor when he scaled back, especially in the case of a raffia-woven organza dress in a pure shade of white. Yet, these small details could hardly be considered missteps in the grand scheme of things, as this smart, wearable collection represents some of Wu’s finest work to date.
Slim Keith would be proud to step out in this collection.
Photos: Courtesy of Imaxtree