Trend Watch: Sporty Victoriana Prevails for Fall 2012

Regal darkness gets a modern twist

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Is it fueled by all things Downton Abbey? Is it a salute to the London 2012 Olympics? Something to do with financial strain and yearning for prewar glories? A longing for the Nineties has taken the fashion world by storm for Fall 2012, but it's not the decade you're already sick of reliving. Designers are dialing back much further than the grunge era: they're heading all the way back to the 1890s, when a dark formality was standard. The trend started in New York this season and, unlike others, persisted all the way through Paris; Olivier Theyskens' collection for Theory, one of the reliable highlights of New York Fashion Week, sent a morose but elegantly styled entourage of women down the runway in minimal nocturnal pieces that could also function for day. There were high necks and peplum waists galore – the standard of Victorian dress.

The Theory show set a tone for the week that, in turn, influenced the season: Karen Walker married the mood to offbeat, dark patches of Sixties psychedelia, suggesting a mod child's throwback to Dickens. British designers Preen described their collection as "an esoteric exploration" of the botanical studies of Bloomsbury belle Beatrix Potter, resulting in the team's trademark intarsia knits and dazzling digital prints and painterly flourishes throughout – even on the shoes. Marc Jacobs' collection featured Miss Havisham-worthy oversized hats by Stephen Jones.

In London, Bora Aksu, Peter Pilotto and Christopher Raeburn continued the interest in Victorian silhouettes, with Raeburn giving them the most impressively modern reappraisal in tech fabrics. His was a sporty Victoriana that aptly summed up the prevailing mood of the season. The haunted feel perpetuated throughout Paris, bringing a practical spookiness to the forefront of the season's trends. Expect dark-leaning artists to indulge themselves accordingly.

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