Fashion has a duty to be a testament to its time - and each season, it seems, Miuccia Prada sets herself the unenviable task of epitomising the here-and-now. We're not necessarily talking just about fashion, it's easy for Mrs Prada to be informed about that, but to truly capture the mood of the moment, the infinitesimal nuances of popular culture, that is not a task to be undertaken lightly.
For Autumn/Winter 2010, Miuccia Prada made her message very very simple, as simple indeed as voluptuous model-of-the-moment Lara Stone zipped into an hourglass dress with fitted waist, flared skirt and ample padding on her already more than ample bosom. Curves are back. Breasts are back. And, most importantly, women are back. Forget the abstraction and introspection, the message was there from the get-go, opening with a model with high-piled hair and sophisticated black cocktail dress, hem dipped in ruffles and nipples tweaked into simple tucks of fabric. Later, that breast emphasis reemerged again and again, with seams slicing boldly under breasts to cup up and out, and ruffled balconettes strapped on top, trembling with every movement to further emphasise the line on dresses, shirts and fitted jackets. The silhouettes inevitably evoke 'Mad Men' - those suck in-jut out shapes spoke of post-war New Look, whether rendered in wool, fetishistic vinyl or indeed a series of cable-knit separates. But Prada is too inquisitive for mere reinterpretation. Her vision of the fifties was underscored by the imagery projected around the catwalk - Pop Art graphics reminiscent of Roy Lichenstein - and her interpretation was similarly cartoonish. Gloves with oversized ruffled of vinyl, bold cat's eye spectacles in bright poster-paint shades and seamed stockings reinvented as cable-knit knee-high socks trimmed with a ruffle down the front. The sludgy, blackened palette of muddy red, navy and aubergine worked into murky, mottled prints was, however, unmistakably Prada; likewise those shots of unmistakably 'off' colour - brilliant cerulean blue on a fox-fur collar, dirty mauve on a patent shoe, maroon and mustard in those knitted stockings.
When Christian Dior first buttoned, battened and bombasted women into the triumph of artifice that became known as the New Look, his intentions were twofold: on the one hand, shameless homage to the idealised image of his mother's belle ÃƒÂ©poque heyday; and on the other, reinforcing the notion of woman as sexual object. The latter may seem oblique - but how else were women to leave their independent jobs, return to the home and begin once more to purchase haute couture? But, in reinterpreting this for today, what was Miuccia Prada's aim? If it was to change our way of looking at the female figure, she succeeded - those curves looked unmistakably right, the fully-grown figure of a woman rather than a barely-blossoming adolescent. At the same time, she tweaked the stereotypes these clothes suggested - her sexy secretaries leaned more to the latter, although they were still trussed up in shiny PVC straight from a marital aids shop, ruffle-pricked décolletage poking through her coats, and sex hung heavy in the air. Those quotes from our sartorial history are important, as those fifties silhouettes, plucked from haute couture's heyday, spell fashion with a capital 'F'. That's why it all looked so right. Woman. Fashion. Sex. Maybe this 'New Look' isn't so new after all?