On an average evening, as dusk settles in across the city, the Chicago History Museum closes its doors to field-trip groups, history buffs and curious tourists, and lies dormant for the night before welcoming them all back again in the morning. But on a recent Tuesday night the museum was the most bustling place in Lincoln Park, brightly lit and swarming with valets as rows of well-dressed folk made their way into the building. On this night, the museum was filled with Louboutains, mini dresses and champagne flutes, as industry members, Nordstrom regulars, press, socialites and fashion-philes gathered together to gear up for cool weather at the Nordstrom Designer Preview fashion show.
The annual event marks the first opportunity to view the new fall collections, which hit the floor at Nordstrom the very next day. Upon arrival, guests sipped cocktails and Veuve, dug into a sushi-filled buffet dinner and chatted excitedly before being whisked into an adjoining tent for the big presentation. The show, divided into eleven different “scenes,” featured collections from a variety of fashion’s heavy hitters: Burberry Prorsum, Peter Som, Nina Ricci, Missoni, Andrew Gn, Marc Jacobs, Tuleh, Stella McCartney, Donna Karan, Marni and Oscar de la Renta. Strutting out to thumping music amidst lightly colored lighting, the models (donning million-inch high heels from designers like Prada, Lanvin and Jimmy Choo) showed the crowd exactly what’s hot for this fall. Mod silhouettes, 1950s-inspired looks, a dose of sparkle, sleekly tailored coats and garments with plenty of movement dominated the runway. Nearly all the designers showed many neutral colored pieces (brown, grey and camel were popular colors), throwing in one powerfully colored piece—a plum sweater, a red pencil skirt, an iris halter gown—which often seemed to explode off the runway. Purple in all its shades—amethyst, iris, plum—was seen in many collections, and blue, rose and soft pinks also made appearances. A few of the showstoppers: Missoni’s teal cashmere belted minidress, Andrew Gn’s black-and-white tweed coat, Marc Jacobs’ utterly mod sky-blue jersey dress with beaded cuffs and a pebble-lurex-silk-chiffon one-shoulder dress from Stella McCartney. But arguably the take-your-breath-away piece of the night came from Oscar de la Renta’s grand finale. To the tune of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” there emerged a brightly colored, small flower-patterned silk zibeline strapless gown with a flamenco hem. It stood out not only for the bright colors and unique silhouette, but because there wasn’t anything else in the show that even looked remotely like it.
Post-show, the crowd returned to the museum, where mini designer boutiques (and several fitting rooms) had been set up, and guests eagerly scooped up many of the items they’d just seen making a pass on the catwalk. But aside from alerting Chicagoans to the new fall trends and stocking the closets of our city’s fashion fans, the Nordstrom Designer Preview annually serves a greater purpose: to fund the Costume Council of the Chicago Historical Society and their educational and research programs. (Molly Each)