The Prada Curve-Ball

The media has been trying to make “curves” happen for so long, it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t actually happened yet. A quick survey of the New York, London, and Milan catwalks this season reveals tall, thin, pale, ascetic-looking women. It’s an industry standard that Milanese designer Miuccia Prada herself has helped sustain since the post-heroin chic look of the late 90s. In fact, only months ago, Ms. Prada came under fire for turning away “real women” for “model types” at the casting for Atilla, the Broadway show she costumed. But for last week’s Fall 2010 runway show, Prada threw critics a literal “curve” ball and put the female body on bold, if surprisingly demure, display.

Make no mistake: Prada’s runway has featured the wondrously pneumatic Lara Stone for many seasons. For Fall 2010’s lineup, however, a more traditional bombshell was flown into Milan just for the occasion—actually, an entire troupe of babes were. We’re talking about the Angels, of course, as in the Victoria’s Secret girls. Alessandra, Doutzen, Miranda, Rosie, and Bianca are famously slender, but shapely; their bodies carry the connotations of biology and femininity. There’s a method to Miuccia’s madness, of course. This time she provokes by drawing our focus from the clothing itself to—gasp—the way the woman wears it, to the way her body transforms it.  Viewed outside this context, Prada’s latest looks otherwise register as declawed librarian chic; the beehived models wouldn’t look out of place at an Eisenhower era cocktail hour in their nice A-line dresses and evening coats. But where the bullet-shaped bras of that era ensured a woman’s silhouette a quiet eroticism, Prada updates the idea with tailored bustlines that are far more conspicuous, especially when worn by women famous for their breasts. For once, everyone agreed, it was the women who made the clothes—as it should be.