Wearable—that word has long been muttered in fashion circles like a backhanded compliment. (See also: commercial.) But a funny thing happened on the way to our post-pandemic norm: After the initial escapist rebound, wearable has suddenly become cool.
Perhaps it’s fatigue from the constant chase for viral catnip, where flights of fancy and high-impact spectacle rule. (Paging Kylie Jenner’s lion-head dress.) Or maybe it’s the result of crushing headline after headline—the war in Ukraine, collapsing banks, inflation. Whatever the reason, fashions in the fall 2023 shows were pared back and understated. The collections prioritized real-life activity and dressing women so they can—gasp—actually go about their day.
Prada, for instance, was inspired by uniforms and beauty in everyday things. Proenza Schouler sent out a terrific collection of uncomplicated clothes—no theme attached. Loewe embraced “reduction.” Designer after designer, from Brandon Maxwell and Bottega Veneta to Christian Dior and Balenciaga, put the spotlight on grown-up codes such as spare tailoring, timeless classics, and neutrals.
All of which doesn’t have to translate to plain-Jane boring.
Take Louis Vuitton’s camel coat—it was leather printed to look like wool. As any woman can tell you, slipping into a simple, beautifully constructed garment can make your emotions soar.
So what does this mean for jewelry? The most obvious cue is one of restraint, which we saw on the runways—single-strand pearl collars or huggies instead of oversize hoops. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to celebrate. Because less surface distraction on the ready-to-wear leaves room for bijoux to bring color and joy to a woman’s wardrobe. In other words: Let the clothes whisper and the jewelry shout.
Here, we break down the major motifs from the shows.
If Nancy Cunard is your patron saint, then rejoice! Not only because a new biography of the rebellious heiress just dropped from St. Martin’s Press. The runways were awash with her style influence—namely, Cunard’s love for chunky, dramatic cuffs, best seen in the 1926 portrait by Man Ray, where her arms are piled high with a hodgepodge of bangles. So there they were at Prabal Gurung, in a mix of glorious silver textures. At Brandon Maxwell, blown up and bejeweled. At Rick Owens, sleekly futuristic. And at Andrew Gn—what else?—glamorous to the hilt.
Designers had fun with the trend, too. Bibhu Mohapatra, who name-checked Cunard as his collection’s muse and opened the show with a reading of her poem “Wheels,” sent out oversize resin versions, by Dinosaur Designs, in bright, standout colors. Off-White’s Ib Kamara, inspired by the unpaved roads of his native Sierra Leone, featured big bracelets in the shape of rubber tires. Then there were the ever-fabulous styles by Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry, which included a wide cuff that winked at the trend with a sculpted eye and another with a molded ear, complete with an onyx cabochon for the “earring.” And while we’re on this meta path, he also had a finger-long ring with a red gem for a lacquered nail—which brings us to…
Black is the new black, and so is gray, high-shine silver, and neutrals. We saw spice tones and shots of lavender. But no color swept the runways for fall 2023 quite like rich and vibrant red. It was everywhere—and set against the prevailing sobering palette, an all-the-more-potent statement style. Consider these crimson entrance-makers: Marni’s leather pantsuit, Bora Aksu’s frothy ruffled lace dresses, not to mention Dolce & Gabbana’s entire finale lineup (crystal-encrusted column gown, feather chubby).
What’s great about this trend is the variety. You have a treasure chest worth of stones to choose from, both semiprecious and oh-so-glamorous, as well as enamel and stained wood. Among our favorites: Giambattista Valli’s door-knocker earrings, which featured a jumbo teardrop surrounded by more gemstone finery, and La DoubleJ’s demonstrative cuffs and cocktail rings dotted with gold cabochon accents. For those who think Pantone’s color of the year, Viva Magenta, is a touch too pink or girly, scarlet is a perfect alternative. And like a bold red lip, it doesn’t take a lot to make an impact.
Let’s be honest: Button earrings never really went away. Still, there was something refreshing about seeing the trend surging on the fall runways. It’s no coincidence that this style—which has long been a signifier for the ladylike and polished—is growing at a time when designers are turning their attention to self-assured suiting and the classics. It’s a little ’60s by way of Jackie Kennedy, a little Working Girl ’80s.
To be sure, these styles are a wonderful way to inject glamour into daywear—like at Balmain and Versace, which paired precision tailoring with blinding gemstone buttons. At Tove, Camille Perry and Holly Wright accessorized their minimalist outerwear and separates with quick flashes of gold: flat floral earrings, done in collaboration with Completedworks. And, of course, if ostentation is your comfort zone, there’s always Carolina Herrera’s Look No. 5: multi-pearl buttons, a pearl collar, and a neat little skirt-suit, dotted with bejeweled glitz.
In the Mood for Love
Designers are getting frisky, judging by the abundant barely-there and innerwear-as-outerwear looks. There were slips, bras, lace, and corsetry galore—plus, a mountain of 200,000 red condom boxes as the backdrop to the Diesel runway. Even designers who nodded to the season’s subdued hook got playful. Case in point: Miu Miu’s Miuccia Prada, who paired simple cardigans and demure kitten heels with…nothing. No bottoms, just undies.
On the sweeter side of this amorous theme? Serious heart symbolism, as seen at Lela Rose, Antonio Marras, and Erdem, whose designer, Erdem Moralioğlu, channeled an enchanting gothic Victorian romance—complete with heart earrings. Marco Rambaldi enlisted jewelry designer Priscilla Anati to create heart-shape hardware, necklaces, and dangling earrings, while Paco Rabanne’s Julien Dossena re-created Salvador Dalí’s 1949 gold, ruby, and diamond Pomegranate Heart for a stunning gold-sequin halter and skirt. (The collection was an ode to the friendship between Dalí and Rabanne.)
Lest you think this is a one-note motif, take a look at the chokers from Etro and Coperni. The former features lovebirds kissing, and the latter—in a tech-heavy collection where robot dogs had a starring role—the heart hands emoji.
Elongated, stretched silhouettes—creating a strong, elegant line—were also big for fall 2023. Maxi hemlines alluringly hung low; at Rodarte, even the sleeves poetically trailed the floor. We saw that linear shape in jewelry as well, creating one of the more captivating trends of the season: the long earring.
It’s a look that adds energy, no matter the style—from the delicate (Kate Spade’s candy-colored shoulder dusters) to the audacious (Andrew Gn’s decadent chandeliers). Badgley Mischka gave us tony fringe earrings, while Ulla Johnson went bohemian with her extended semiprecious drops (plus suede fringe pumps!). Our personal favorites? The silver offerings from Alexander McQueen, which struck myriad tones. Some featured long, graceful wisps of a flower; others, more substantial petals. Supermodel Naomi Campbell wore the boldest version, a single breathtaking orchid that hung so low it brushed against her collarbone. We’ve talked a lot about dressing for being out in the world, but we bet these swinging statement earrings will have people making a beeline for those Instagram selfies too.