March 22, 2012

Designing Women

It's the year of the woman: The world's most powerful women are turning to fashion's new establishment, female designers, to dress them for their biggest moments.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

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So synonymous was Coco Chanel's Little Black Dress with a modern woman's mobility that when it debuted in 1926, an American editor dubbed it The Ford — even though 99 percent of women weren't even driving in those days. Fueled by the same zeal shown by that first generation of fashion rebelles who, following Coco, doffed their corsets, swapped stiff brocades for boyish jersey, and bobbed their hair, today's alpha females are choosing women designers to dress them. So many major style moments of late reveal women designers in the driver's seat: Kate Middleton gets hitched to the future king of England in a flawlessly fitting Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen gown; Modern Family's Sofia Vergara, siren du jour, glides into the Golden Globes in a mermaid-cut Vera Wang to collect her show's Best Comedy Award; Angelina Jolie kick-starts the press tour for her directorial debut in a sleek white Stella McCartney pantsuit; and Céline's infallible Phoebe Philo cops the coveted Council of Fashion Designers of America Award. (More? Just getting started here ...) The first lady hosts a state dinner for China's president, Hu Jintao, in a diplomatically Chinese red silk McQueen; McCartney is commissioned to design the uniforms of the London host team for this summer's Olympics; and next month's much-buzzed-about show at the Metropolitan Museum fetes two of fashion's greatest visionaries, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada. And though International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde selected a Karl Lagerfeld — era Chanel for a recent G20 World Economic Summit, it was undeniably inspired by the very "uniform" Coco had designed for herself: schoolboy tie, boxy blazer, white blouse, slim skirt. Its simple chic was as on-the-money as it had been almost 100 years ago.

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