New York, London and Milan fashion weeks mark the return of partywear

Designers are hopeful that as restrictions start to lift internationally, we'll swap trackpants for miniskirts, and party like it's the roaring '20s

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Exactly a year ago I was in Paris in the last days of fashion month, with the spectre of the pandemic creeping ever closer. This year I am in front of a computer screen watching the filmed runway shows of the virtual fashion weeks and missing the glamour, so much so that I have put on long sparkly earrings and glittery Miu Miu shoes just to put me in the zone.

It must have felt worse for the Golden Globe nominees stuck at home, wearing couture in their kitchens, for the awards ceremony. Comfy couches replaced the red carpet while they waited on Zoom to hear if they had won a gong or not. Everyone is feeling starved of high-octane glamour and none more so than the fashion houses who rely on the oxygen of publicity surrounding the red-carpet season. Nevertheless, as was proved at last weekend's awards ceremony, the stars stepped up to the plate and did the fashion houses proud, twirling for selfies on their smartphone cameras wearing Dior, Prada and Oscar de la Renta.

There was an unforgettable dark green lurex gown and cape worn by Anya Taylor-Joy that took the Dior ateliers 300 hours to make; Prada’s 1920s chemise worn by Julia Garner; and Gal Gadot in a Givenchy babydoll.

There was no shortage of appetite to dress up among the stars, and designers are hopeful that as the lockdowns and restrictions start to lift internationally, we too will happily swap trackpants for sassy miniskirts, and go out and party like it is the roaring ’20s all over again. A year of comfort dressing has started to pall and fashion houses are full of ideas for the freedom to come, with autumn/winter collections mostly designed during strict lockdowns in Europe and America.

Prom dresses and hot pants at New York Fashion Week

New York and London’s virtual Fashion Weeks were full of optimism, showing sophisticated dresses for big events, such as the gowns by Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera, the seductive cafe society looks of Badgley Mischka and the 1980s taffeta prom dresses and uptown glamour at Prabal Gurung – all red-carpet-favourite designers.

Oscar de la Renta went big on 3D floral appliques and prints for minidresses and long gowns, and boldly coloured voluminous maxi dresses for autumn, providing plenty of choice for nominees of the upcoming Academy Awards. The house scored a hit at the Golden Globes with Amanda Seyfried in a 1930s-style peach-hued gown.

Elsewhere, partywear was more provocative. There were alluring and body-skimming catsuits, hot pants and minidresses from Tom Ford, who said in his collection notes: “Who doesn’t want to be a badass, especially after being trapped at home for a year.” Clearly, he believes one of the legacies of the pandemic is a return of sexy.

Tulle, sequins and chiffon at London Fashion Week

In London, Molly Goddard, who dressed award-winner Rosamund Pike and Bridgerton's Nicola Coughlan in unforgettable voluminous tulle dresses, loves the idea of making "the ultimate dresses, based on classic prom or party dresses that are so recognisable, but a little twisted – the tulle dress becomes so loud and clashing that it is almost ugly".

Goddard admits she is fed up with the sight of leggings and black padded jackets. “Pieces in this collection are for celebrating and enjoying. I’m trying to be as optimistic as I can – I’m desperate to have somewhere to wear a taffeta dress to.”

There were more fun-loving looks from Temperley London and Halpern. The former riffing on 1970s rock n roll swagger with a purple velvet trouser suit and lamé minidresses modelled by Ella, daughter of rock legend Keith Richards. Meanwhile, Michael Halpern was planning a post-lockdown party with disco-inspired jumpsuits, sarongs and minidresses in coloured sequins and animal prints, teamed with Christian Louboutin boots that screamed fun.

There were some particularly dreamy long, silky dresses with voluminous sleeves from Roksanda, portrayed in a short film in which they were worn by Vanessa Redgrave (reciting Shakespeare), her daughter, Joely Richardson, and her granddaughter, Daisy Bevan, in Richardson’s beautiful country home. The message: you don’t need a party to celebrate the joys of dressing up.

Erdem, meanwhile, was predicting the joy of returning to the theatre, the ballet, and other special events to dress up for. His virtual show was inspired by the prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, and featured four leading ballerinas and some beautiful feather-trimmed chiffon and crystal-embellished duchess satin gowns.

Elegant but cautious glamour at Milan Fashion Week

In Milan, many of the designers were preoccupied with a back-to-business look, concentrating on real clothes and lots of tailoring compared to London and New York’s lockdown escapism. Nevertheless, this is Milan, and Italians are very good at high-octane glamour when they want to wear it.

"The dressing-down trend will have done nothing to dent our desire to look good, and our craving for beauty and elegance," Giorgio Armani wrote. He believes it is still possible to be elegant even when dressing in a more casual and relaxed way. "However, I do predict that when we are allowed to pursue our lives in a more normal way, there will be a resurgence of dressing-up as people socialise again. And in this context, elegance never goes out of style."

With this in mind, Armani’s Emporio and mainline collections feature sophisticated dark velvets, pantsuits for the Giorgio collection and minidresses at Emporio, along with a lot of spiral ruffles, glitter and crystal. Elegant, but ca