Major trends are often born out of backlash--a rejection of the immediate past to embrace something wholly different--but sometimes the best looks are the product of evolution, rather than revolution. Case in point: today's Runway to Real Way look, the downtown lady. A decisive fusion of cool-girl associations (leather, quirky pairings, unfussy styling) and ladylike charm (structured flap bags, a prim piece or two), this runway trend seamlessly blends the overtly sexy and edgy silhouettes we've experienced over the last few years with the surge of soignée styles we saw on the runways this past fall. In other words, the downtown-lady look is what happens when elegance meets insouciance! And with so many inspiring ways to execute this trend--from the leather shift dresses at Loewe to the ruffles-and-shorts ensembles at Valentino--one thing is for sure: this is an incredibly cool and accessible trend that everyone can try.
Now, before you start experimenting with this uber-chic mix, let's take a look at how it's being addressed on the S/S 11 runways. The Valentino show offered a subtle interpretation by pairing the Ruffle Front Nylon Jacket with Bow Belt ($2790, 212.772.6969) with the Tailored Gabardine Shorts ($690), yellow Garavani Chain Detail Flats ($675, 212.772.6969), and a caramel-colored Garavani Rockstud Tote ($2075, 212.772.6969). By simply styling the super feminine top with tailored shorts and metal-embellished accessories instead of a flirty skirt and heels, the ensemble is darling without being saccharine, making it a perfect option for a ladies' luncheon. While the looks at Valentino were decidedly sweet and soft, at Nina Ricci, designer Peter Copping infused his signature lace and ruffles with a more masculine energy. In the above runway look, a leather jacket and black Detailed Skirt ($825, available here in Sand) give a ruffle-front blouse some much-needed utilitarian toughness.
Of course a feminine-masculine mix isn't the only way to execute a downtown-lady look! As Loewe and Proenza Schouler so aptly demonstrated on the S/S 11 runways, this smart dressing idea can also by achieved by simply updating classic ladylike pieces. At Loewe, we fell for the leather shift dresses, specifically the walnut-brown version, which was embroidered with tiny laser-cut flower appliqués and styled with leather point-toe pumps and a bow-bedecked headband. (Sadly, none of these pieces are available in the U.S. right now.) Though the outfit definitely has an inherent edginess, the intricate leather detailing gives the look a sweet and youthful vibe. At Proenza Schouler, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough also used timeless wardrobe staples to create incredible downtown-lady ensembles. In the look featured above, the design duo paired the Printed Shibori Chiffon Blouse ($675, 888.282.6060) and Shibori Skirt ($1350, 718.237.4002) with the orange and pink Terry Tweed Jacket ($1775), resulting in masterful combination of polished nonchalance.
If you're interested in incorporating this delightful blend of chic and cool into your daily rotation, we suggest following in Kate Moss' footsteps. The model/style icon was snapped shopping in Paris earlier this year wearing a version of this look when she stepped out in an amazing Chanel jacket and the French fashion house's classic quilted bag. To take the starch out of these two polished pieces, Moss added a pair of tailored dress shorts, slouchy boots, and a gray wide-brimmed hat. These unfussy pieces inject some masculinity and bohemian spirit into her overall look, resulting in a final outfit that is very accessible and appealing!
Assuming you're ready to try this trend at home, we've gone ahead a pulled a handful of essentials that will help you create your own downtown-lady look. Feel free to mix and match these items to suit your tastes and please don't hesitate to experiment; there are so many ways you can embrace this trend! If your personal style errs on the polished side, try switching out your girly skirts for tailored shorts like ASOS' Premium Tailored Belted Shorts ($81) or 3.1 Phillip Lim's Belted Shorts ($225). If you simply can't separate your feminine blouses from your minis, then simply pick up some tougher accents. For example, Sam Edelman's Lorissa Spike Pumps ($195) have a gunmetal spike heel and crystal details that add a little danger to an otherwise classic shoe. If you prefer edgier ensembles, we have some covetable items for you as well! Try recreating the look at Nina Ricci by pairing ASOS' Triple Ruffle Sleeve Blouse ($54) with DKNY's Black Washed Leather Motorcycle Jacket ($239) and T by Alexander Wang's Ruched Skirt ($110). The resulting outfit is a fun twist on the typical office attire.
For those of you who are interested in incorporating a hint of sophistication a la Moss, be sure to pair you crisp shorts with a ladylike bag, like Forever 21's Small Snakeskin Handbag ($20) or Kate Spade's New York Sugar Hill Janet Crossbody ($225), and a prim, boxy jacket; Zara's Studio Bolero Jacket ($159) and J. Crew's Rialta Tweed Jacket ($250) are two of our favorites. Once you have your bag and jacket picked out, we suggest finishing your look with Steve Madden's Brewster Boots ($130) and Mint by Goorin's Nubby Panama Hat ($34). Last, but certainly not least, if you adore Loewe's modern take on the streamlined shift dress as much as we do, Selected Femme's Leather Sleeveless Dress ($359) and Vince's Leather Shift Dress ($595) are both investment-worthy options that will help you achieve the downtown-lady look with ease!--Jessica Baker
Photo of Kate Moss, courtesy of INF; Loewe runway photo, courtesy of Imax Tree; Valentino runway photo, courtesy of Valentino; Nina Ricci and Proenza Schouler runway images, courtesy of PR Consulting