The Final Bows at Fashion Week Are Basically a How-To Manual for Cool Work Outfits

Forgive me for pontificating that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who want to wear a runway look and those who’d rather dress like a fashion designer. I think I’m the latter. This self-discovery reached its fever pitch over the course of fashion month, as I harped on my own question about whether fashion designers really “design for themselves,” until I realized: Eureka! Almost every fashion show reveals an answer to this question. It’s tested at the end of a presentation, when the designer comes out for a final wave or bow, dressed in something from their own closet. Following the models’ finale lap in clothes that conjure some form of a fashion fantasy, these designers appear almost as an anachronism at the end, before their spectators’ pupils adjust back to the neutral baseline of the real world.

What’s particularly noteworthy here is what the designers are dressing for: one of their biggest days of work this year, which involves herding cats, orchestrating a performance, and delivering a show that appears to go off without a hitch, while still looking good enough to be seen by an audience of peers, editors, buyers, and tastemakers at the show’s close. And so isn’t it fair to consider these outfits, worn by arbiters of style, as the ultimate recommendation for an outfit that you can wear to work that won’t inhibit your ability to professionally function? It’s something I always craved and never nailed when I was working as a photographer on a daily basis: an outfit that didn’t sacrifice presentation while still allowing for maximum mobility, and generosity when it came to a little perspiration (whether from adrenaline, panic, dread, deadlines, or acrobatics).

Acting on my hunch that these designers are the rare breed who have conquered the capsule wardrobe, I examined their final bow photos and tried to parse what they’d advise me to wear to a hectic and high-stakes day of work.

1.One long dress

The Ulla Johnson method eliminates as much decision-making as possible. This might even be a matching two-piece set but what’s the difference, really? You don’t even need to worry about weather-shamers because no one can tell whether or not you’re wearing tights. Case closed.

2.Midtown uniform but make it fashion

I’m sure the words “midtown uniform” and “Isabel Marant” have never been said in the same sentence before, and never the twain shall meet again, but hot take: Marant follows finance’s formula. Swap the fleece vest for a tweedy, sleeveless security blanket with cavernous pockets, and the Allen Edmonds dress shoes for a pair of boots as slouchy as my posture at 3 p.m., and there you have it.

3.The print mix

I’ll always have a soft spot for Eckhaus Latta, and I love that this photo reflects the full color spectrum of what a designer might wear for their goodbye lap. Zoe Latta wears her brand’s signature knit pants with a cacophonous button-down and shoes that look like they just walked out of an eighteenth century painting, while Mike Eckhaus is in exactly what you’d expect a fashion designer to wear if you closed your eyes and imagined it.

4.Emotional support turtleneck

In both Lucie Meier’s and Virginie Viard’s presentation outfits, the black turtleneck is the secret ingredient. From there, they layer on the immaculate blouses, the priestly collars, and the Chanel jacket, but the black turtleneck is the machine-washable workhorse underneath it all, keeping everything together.

5.For the first round of a job interview

If you work in an office with a more formal dress code, Victoria Beckham and Tory Burch are the references for you. I can imagine Beckham waking up that morning, looking in the mirror and thinking, “History will be kind to this outfit.” I wonder if there’s some sense in adopting that mindset at least once a week.

6.Exactly one pop of thematic color

Lest we forgo all elements of surprise, Hermes’ Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, Issey Miyake’s Satoshi Kondo, Shrimps’ Hannah Weiland and Victor Glemaud all wove a pop of color from their own collections into their final outfits. I’m taking cues for those days when I don’t feel like swimming in the deep end of the grayscale.

7.The requisite head-to-toe black look

And then there are eight interpretations of the all-black ensemble, as demonstrated by Monse’s Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, Christian Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri, MSGM’s Massimo Giorgetti, Stella McCartney, Virgil Abloh, Christopher Kane (wearing his own “More Joy” sweatshirt), Erdem’s Erdem Moralioglu, and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli. (The latter two subvert the convention by staying nimble with their Fashion Sneakers.™) Each makes the case for not resisting that tried and true pair of pants that you know work; most proselytize having one, trusty black crewneck sweater.

*Bows, waves, walks away.*

Photos via Vogue Runway and Getty Images.

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