Burberry Prorsum; Resort 2016

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To see a brand-new Burberry collection without a show to go with it at first feels rather odd—like being sent to bed without a story. For that, blame Christopher Bailey. In his care, this house has developed a gripping runway vocabulary of glitter storm, bittersweet musical pathos, and whimsy-spiked Britishness.

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Its articulation has become a ceremony almost as recognizable as the Changing of the Guard (so no surprise that the two were combined at Burberry’s show in L.A. last month), and the message it sends is duly relayed around the world via storefront, billboard, and screen. 

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That extravagance of commotion serves only to highlight the clothes. Here, even though presented on nothing more grandiose than four racks and a cluster of mannequins, this collection’s own expressive merits were enough to quell any thought of being left in the dark. Prim, proper, ladylike silhouettes—gowns, A-lines, and shifts—came heaped with an abandon of embellishment. Complicatedly engineered lace whorled with detail so nano as to defy even the highest pixel count. The fine black mesh of a gown was spattered with what first appeared as printed flashes, but up (very) close revealed itself as silver tape as broad as the edge of your fingernail.

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A shaved ruffle of deconstructed feathers dusted an abstract animal jacquard that echoed the overtly zebra intarsia of a shearling coat. Lace and macramé were layered horizontally in different densities or mapped in near-corset panels to retain propriety while simultaneously suggesting its evasion. 

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Other touchstones observed included the key trope of the trench (in four shades of silk faille), some boho via a poncho, and an expanded statement of a key seasonal accessory—today, the baby bucket backpack and bag. The gold tape on a macramé dress and white tape on a navy overcoat—both served up lavishly—bore a hint of ceremonial military tailoring.

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Like the collision of almost mundanely proper desert and Chelsea boots with six-inch heels the color of Cannes’ Palme d’Or, this was a collection that expertly played out two notes at once—not-quite-wild clothes for not-entirely-good girls. Patently Burberry, show or no show.

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