Marc Jacobs and the Ghosts of Fashion Past and Future

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New York Fashion Week came to an end Wednesday in the empty, echoing wine-dark Armory on upper Park Avenue where a few small rows of metal stools faced each other across a truncated mirrored runway like an island, floating unmoored in space. The crying strings of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble filled the air.

Out of the blackness a woman materialized, lit by a single spot and wearing a sweeping leopard-print cape, a ruffled Victorian floral blouse, cropped pinstriped trousers and leather boots, her image inverted and reflected back from below. Together, she and her double wandered forward, and then disappeared into the shadows again.

Oh hello, fashion. Where have you been? Where are you going?

Marc Jacobs didn’t have an answer. This week, no one has. But then, that’s not just a problem of style; it’s a reflection of the current identity crisis in this country. Mr. Jacobs simply posed the question more gorgeously, and succinctly, than pretty much anyone else. That’s the point of this whole exercise, in case anyone was wondering.

He posed it with ever-increasing A-line volumes in tweed and cashmere and taffeta. With long gowns speckled with crystal, sashes draped into a governess bustle at the back. With explosions of elaborately ruched opera coats. With the simplicity of a Shetland sweater and wool skirt. With an off-the-shoulder empire-waist chartreuse ball gown. With references to his own back catalog, and the tropes of couture.

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