Main Line tastemakers and retailers discuss the sartorial power of social media, as suburban style shifts from conservative to contemporary.
From Oscar de la Renta’s Fall 2015 collection, the sleek, figure-flattering silhouette of this crystal-embroidered cap-sleeve dress ($4,290) embodies Main Line style’s increasing penchant for clean, sinuous lines, while the front pockets and colorful crystal-and-stone detailing speak to its casual heritage.
When you think of Main Line style, kaleidoscopic pink and green shift dresses and über-preppy twin sets traditionally come to mind. Lilly Pulitzer, Milly, and Ralph Lauren were staples for any lady worth her salt. But over the past few years, there’s been a seismic shift in the fashions adorning the Flywheel-sculpted bodies of the Main Line ladies who lunch. Fun and punchy stylings reminiscent of summers in Hyannis Port have evolved into modern garb replete with clean sinuous lines, sleek color palettes, and fashion-forward designs. Ken Downing, fashion director and senior vice president of Neiman Marcus (King of Prussia Mall, 610-962-6200), sums up Main Line style as “a mix of East Coast sophistication and personal style, with an appreciation for a relaxed attitude of dressing.”
“Historically, there has been that influence of preppy Americana, of great casual sportswear and tailoring, but in recent years I have seen a shift away from that old tenet,” says Maureen Doron, owner of Bryn Mawr’s Skirt (931 W. Lancaster Ave., 610-520-0222) and a new sister store opening in Center City this fall. “I think the preppy aesthetic will always exist and remain a pervasive style influence in Philly and its suburbs, but I have definitely seen a move toward more edgy and contemporary details or accents in women’s fashion. The Main Line woman of today is willing to try trendy looks.” Here, Theory, Vince, DVF, and Rebecca Taylor are some of the brands that Doron’s loyal clientele come clamoring for. Linda Golden (379 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford, 610-658-0992) has been a fixture in Haverford Square for more than 20 years, and its namesake owner seconds Doron’s sentiment: “The younger Main Line gal is moving away from the ultra preppiness we once knew."
What fueled this Main Line transition from Lilly to Libertine? According to local retailers and fashion pundits, it’s all about social media and society’s collective obsession with celebrities. “With the rise of fashion bloggers, street style photo bloggers, and just social media as a means to explore the contemporary fashion world at large, women are able to see how they can incorporate those trendy items into their wardrobe,” says Doron. Downing concurs. “The advent of the Internet and the abundance of so many new fashion brands over the past couple of decades has brought the world of fashion to the forefront for many. The Internet has certainly opened the conversation of fashion to a broader audience,” he says. And at Saks Fifth Avenue (2 Bala Plaza, Bala Cynwyd, 610-667-1550), Fifth Avenue Club Director Annette Malandra agrees, saying, “The evolution of our clients’ style occurred about five years ago and was swayed by the changes in pop culture, the use of social media, and celebrity influences on fashion.” Just last year, this City Avenue stalwart expanded its contemporary section with racks (and racks) of designer denim and a broad range of modern brands.
Although retailers employ social media to promote sales, they also use it to really connect with their clients in a way that traditional advertising can’t. Through look books, product shots, promos, and other imagery, they use social media as a creative platform to engage their customer base and share ideas and information. “We use it to tell our story and the stories of the women we serve,” says Doron. “Who we are, what we love, what we have in store, what our clients are loving, what is trending: Our story is fashion.”
Bryn Mawr’s Skirt, which will open a store in Center City this fall, has been helping balance Main Line fashion between old-school preppy and edgy contemporary.
While Main Line retailers dabble in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels, Instagram is the hands-down favorite of the sartorial set. “I think Instagram is the platform most oriented for the fashion industry,” says Fran D’Ambrosio, local fashion doyenne and owner of Ella’s Grove (876 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, 484-380-2051), a contemporary fashion boutique that relocates to new digs at Haverford Square in September. “Fashion is all about the visual element, mixing and matching patterns and textures, pairing dressy with casual, and accessorizing. Instagram inspires and dares people to experiment,” she says. By offering style tips and outfit inspirations, D’Ambrosio has had customers come into the store and request to buy entire outfits, including accessories, which she posted on social media.
Her Haverford Square neighbor Kate Lawson, owner of Menagerie (385 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford, 610-658-9989), couldn’t agree more. “I love Instagram. I love that it gives viewers an instant visual. Plus, I think that is what people crave in the fashion industry. I enjoy capturing color schemes, mixing patterns, and pairing different items together for viewers to like and leave comments on.” Lawson, who still juggles the original Menagerie location at Eagle Village Shops (503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-971-1769), also believes that social media has played a huge role in the style transition of Main Line women. “Viewers gain inspiration from following fashion accounts, and step outside of their normal comfort zones to imitate outfits they see and admire on Instagram,” she says.
This fall, these Main Line retailers will be turning to social media to spread the word about the season’s hottest trends, including styles influenced by the ’70s, luxe textiles, bold patterns, and ladylike details.
Through social media, this fall “we’re allowing the savvy fashionista to traverse time, location, and brands to draw inspiration from an endless number of stylish sources. Fall is always such a beautiful season, and 2015 is no exception with all of the velvets, embroideries, and embellishments,” says D’Ambrosio. “The Main Line woman is ready to try just about any new trend, from the slip dress to the pantsuit. However, they are still relishing the fringe and fur trends, which are big again, as well.”
For Doron, the season is all about propriety—with an edge. “Designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs filled their shows with ladylike lengths and demure silhouettes in easily accessible and relaxed fabrics such as tweed and cashmere. Think refined tailoring, a go-to classic, the crisp white shirt, pencil skirts, and elbow-length hems; very chic and lady-who-lunches.”
And according to Downing, it’s all about the decade of the ’70s. “Fall sees a continuation of the love of a ’70s spirit with folkloric references, often with a nod to Victorian romance.” He also sees midi and maxi lengths, handcrafted details, lace, patchwork, and fringe. “Flared pants become important and shoes adopt chunky heels, which create a solid foundation to the flared pants and longer lengths that are the important message for fall. Saddle bags and ear clips complete the look,” he says.
But no matter what the hot trends of the season are, it’s safe to say that while the Main Line woman will always have a soft spot for her Lilly, she’s also making room in her wardrobe for some contemporary cool.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY YANNIS VLAMOS/INDIGITALIMAGES.COM