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A Call To Arms — Military Influences At Richard Chai LOVE Fall 2013


As soon as the first model turned the corner and emerged onto the runway at the Richard Chai LOVEFall 2013 show, held on Thursday, February  7th at Lincoln Center, audiences knew they’d be enlisting in Chai’s fashion army. The fist look —a cropped olive green jacket in a cotton, wool and satin blend with roomy cargo pockets and a fitted waistband, paired with a pencil skirt in a plaid print featuring a black piping trim (as shown above at top) — established the overarching military theme of the collection. Navy, pewter, pine and evergreen trousers, pencil skirts, coats, and jackets continued to establish the armed services inspiration, which seemed a bit nostalgic, as if hearkening back to the 1940s, when female officers wore their patch-adorned blazers with pencil skirts instead of the trousers worn by their male counterparts — which is not to say that the women at Richard Chai were dainty or that they all showed a bit of leg ( in fact, many of them did don trousers ) but, rather, that Chai managed to use his superb tailoring skills to create form-fitting pieces that showed the beauty of the female shape while also feeling strong and statesmanly, commanding and in control. Take, for example, a loose-fitting, single-breasted military green Balmacaan coat, which he paired with perfectly fitted, navy-and-pewter plaid trousers that flared ever so slightly at the ankle (as shown second from top).

Even when steering away from the overt military themes, Chai’s choice of fabrics and tailoring seemed informed by the 1940s, with skirts falling below the knee (even when featuring an unexpected slit) and both jackets and shirts  cut so that they would taper at the waist and then flare out below it to accentuate naturally curvy hips, both attributes that were common in the 1940s when utilitarian clothing became popular due to war era restrictions regarding material rationing for garments.

As the show progressed, however, more decadent and rich colors appeared, perhaps mirroring the way in which fashion itself changed to become more opulent and grand in the late 1940s and early 1950s, factors made possible by the nation’s economic growth. In the case of the Richard Chai LOVE Fall 2013 show, this opulence was conveyed via sumptuous purple and green jewel tones  as models took to the runway in pieces like a violet-colored, off-the-shoulder silk dress with a wide V-shaped necklines and ruching along the sides of the bodice, a violet silk and satin peplum skirt paired with a graphic black-and-white print  button-down shirt featuring a notched collar, and several lavender-and-taupe brocade pieces (among them a fitted jacket worn over a black silk shirt and paired with a matching brocade trouser and a long-sleeved dress with a peplum accent worn over a black wool-and-cotton shirt). Similarly, a lilac silk fleur print added a lushness and an air of femininity to utilitarian pieces like a bomber jacket with an exaggerated, bulging neckline.

The most successful looks played with the line between masculine and feminine, between restriction and indulgence, between discipline and leisure. A stunning sleeveless peplum dress in an evergreen-and-lilac silk fleur print, for instance, offered a cheeky peek-a-boo twist via a side slit along the skirt, but then quickly turned to more conservative territory by having an evergreen-toned cotton-and-silk sleeveless shirt layered underneath it, thereby hiding the decolletage completely. Similarly, a black-and-white abstract jacquard jacket and matching trouser were blessed with a feminine touch thanks to the peplum waistline adding a bit of curvature to the otherwise linear silhouette. And, of course, a double-breasted, olive-colored jacket was paired with a gray wool skirt featuring delicate violet embroidery, while a classic cream-and-gray double-breasted blazer with strong shoulders and hefty buttons added an imposing feel to the airy lavender silk dress beneath it, with its delicately pleated skirt and its textured bodice.

Check out  some of the stand-out looks in the collection above and below and check out our video of the finale walk!

** All photos by Dan Lecca

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