“Fashions somehow earn their right to survive,” wrote the designer Claire McCardell in her 1956 book, What Shall I Wear? “They prove dateless because they continue to play the same role and consequently reappear again and again.” This 66-year-old statement rings true today, as it probably will forever—some things never go out of style, because they just work. But what are the essential qualities of a timeless garment? “I think it’s the craft,” says stylist and Vogue contributing editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson. “The integrity of the piece is what makes it last.”
One theme that emerged from the fall 2022 runways was a concept our fashion team dubbed “twisted classics”: elemental pieces in the fashion lexicon, like the Perfecto jacket and the miniskirt, that had been reimagined in new and surprising ways—an exaggerated proportion here, an exuberance of embellishment there. Of course, these developments are part of an ongoing cycle. “There really isn’t such a thing as ‘classic’ in fashion, in the sense that fashion is always about change,” says Amy Fine Collins, one of the discerning minds behind the International Best Dressed List. “Take a black turtleneck—that’s a classic, but then again, if you look at the black turtleneck throughout the years, sometimes it’s very baggy, sometimes it’s very tight, sometimes it’s long, sometimes it’s cropped. There’s always variation.”
To bring this season’s new archetypes to life, we called on Karefa-Johnson, Collins, and other fashion personalities whose signature look reflects the idea of “classic” in different ways, and asked them to go just a little bit outside of their comfort zone.
Amy Fine Collins: The Reinvented Trench
Riccardo Tisci’s fall collection for Burberry featured several surrealist manifestations of the trenchcoat, a British essential. The standout: a gabardine gown that spins the elements of an otherwise practical item into a fantasy. “It’s good to have a garment that you can keep discovering,” says the journalist Amy Fine Collins, who is usually seen in immaculately tailored, arm-baring dresses. “Even a simple garment—if it’s very well made and there’s a lot of thought and intelligence behind it—makes you discover something else about it every time you wear it. This dress has a lot of potential for little adventures of learning and seeing and finding.”
Quil Lemons: Double-Belt Pants
“My personal style is comfortable with ‘We’re going to show a little midriff,’ ” says the photographer Quil Lemons. He gladly slipped into Miu Miu’s prep school–meets–leather daddy–meets–cowboy ensemble, with its two belts that draw the eye to the waist. “That collection resonated with an entire generation of people who were stuck in the house during the pandemic and are now just trying to be sexy as we are coming of age,” he says.
Daphne Seybold: The Exaggerated Perfecto Jacket
“I bought my first Perfecto jacket 15 years ago, and it made me feel alive,” says Daphne Seybold, the co-CEO and CMO of Sky High Farm Workwear, a brand that was founded to support the food access and sovereignty work of the nonprofit Sky High Farm. “It embodies the spirit of punk and rebellion.” This version, with its exaggerated proportions and extravagant hardware, “exemplifies all the very best qualities of a Perfecto, reimagined in a totally new shape and cut. Rules are made to be broken!”
Mel Ottenberg: Denim on Denim
Mel Ottenberg wears a Balenciaga top, jeans, and belt; New Balance sneakers.
“I’m a funny guy, so I don’t need my clothes to say very much. I think I’ve got enough personality—it’s almost like my clothes need to balance me out or something,” says Interview editor in chief Mel Ottenberg, who has made double denim a signature. “I’m really looking for something with no embellishments, no decoration, nothing funky about it.” While this Balenciaga look doesn’t exactly scream anonymity, it has a sense of integrity: “I loved how it’s clearly designed by someone who’s also obsessed with simple stuff and just did something weird with it.”
Jimmy Paul: New Classics
You’ll often find hairstylist Jimmy Paul in clothes that read as aggressively neutral, a tactic he deploys to navigate the fashion industry without worry. “I dress in a certain way because I don’t want to give anybody ammunition. There’s nothing you can say because I’m dressed really simply, my grooming is really simple, and I show up on time,” he says. This fall, Bottega Veneta rendered menswear basics—like the “jeans” and striped shirt shown here—in calfskin so soft and lightweight that it’s hard, even from a few feet away, to tell them apart from their denim and cotton counterparts. “It’s pure luxury. I mean, it’s pure joy. It’s entertainment, it’s frivolous, it’s extreme glamour—but it’s just for you; it’s for the wearer to know,” Paul says of his illusory look. “And then what’s great about it is it’s functional.”
Gabriella Karefa-Johnson: The Bomber Jacket and Tiered “Mini”
“For a long time, I wanted to cover my body and shroud myself, so I became very obsessed with outerwear,” says Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, a stylist known for her eclectic looks and penchant for vintage bowling jackets. “But then, on the other side of things, I have always been obsessed with miniskirts, and I’ve always really liked showing off my legs.” This season, Prada imbued her two staples with a sense of intrigue. “There’s an absurdity to it that I really appreciate,” Karefa-Johnson says of the brand’s oversize take on the bomber. “There are so many ideas at play, and somehow they successfully coalesced into this piece.” She describes the skirt, with its swath of metal mesh, as “somewhere between a slip and a miniskirt and a fucking screen door. Leave it to Mrs. Prada to think of something so twisted.”
Camilla Lowther: Oversize Suiting
Camilla Lowther, one of the most influential booking agents in the fashion industry, is known for her discerning eye and eclectic approach to dressing, which generally features a statement coat. “I like a bit of practical, and I like mixing it with a bit of impracticality—that throws it, gives the practical a bit of an edge,” she says. Here, she models a supersize coat by Peter Do. “What makes a garment timeless is its shape. It has to be something you can rely on, that takes you forward. Something you see yourself wearing for years, even as you get older.”
Laquan Smith: The All-Black Ensemble
“When I hear the word ‘classic,’ it makes me think of nostalgic moments in film, theater, and music,” says LaQuan Smith, the New York–based designer whose lace catsuits and iridescent corset tops have become staples for the unapologetic party girl—and who often dons a sleek all-black look to close out his runway shows. The Yohji Yamamoto trousers Smith wears here both accentuate and obscure his form, setting off a simple turtleneck with just the right amount of cling. “It felt very grungy, it felt sophisticated, it felt dark,” he notes. “And, most importantly, I was snatched.”
Hair by Adam Szabó for Ro + Co at Frank Reps; makeup by Kuma for Nars at Streeters.
Photography assistants: Rachel Filler, Paige Labuda; fashion assistants: Tori López, Danielle Spitz; makeup assistant: Connie Ojeda; production assistant: Chris Herity; tailor: Lindsay Wright