Skip to main content

When Gloria Steinem appeared arm-in-arm with two friends just as the Michael Kors show started, Molly Ringwald, seated across the front row, burst into applause. Ms., the magazine Steinem founded, turned 50 last year, and she herself is nearing 90. Fashion can feel like a young person’s game, and Kors’s audience had its share of ingenues, but on his moodboard this season it was all muses of a 1970s vintage and gravitas: Steinem, Cher, Tina Turner, Lena Horne, Ali McGraw, and Jane Fonda, along with a news clipping of Kors’s own mother Joan, who made the paper when she tried to try out for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Kors has always loved the ’70s and he’s at his best when he’s channeling the American sportswear of the era, with its clean lines and unfussy swagger. The first look called Steinem to mind, from the model’s shield sunglasses on down to the micro shorts and knee-high boots, a mile of bare leg in between. The ’70s callbacks kept coming in the form of exaggerated bell-bottoms and short fringe dresses, the difference being the kind of materials Kors was using. The fringe was sturdy bonded suede, so it could still be shimmying in 2070, and the flares were jersey stitched with micro sequins, comfortable and glam.

If the hip-slung chrome buckle belt looks familiar that’s because it was lifted from a circa 2004 Kors collection. Last season he reproduced another early ’00s belt and it got a “crazy waiting list,” he reported. Kors has been around the block enough times to understand that it really does pay to design what you know. Not for him the “ridiculous hijinks” seen on other New York runways. What we got instead was the signature double-face cashmere outerwear, strong double-breasted suit jackets, and soft knit dresses cut with the fluid bell sleeves Horne once told the designer were her wardrobe secret weapon. Was there just a smidge of defiance in name-checking all those 70- and 80-somethings? I loved to see it.