Concorde 008: Your matching-set game, on point
Uniform dressing doesn't need to be a snooze!
Welcome to Concorde, a 2x monthly creation from Blackbird Spyplane where Erin takes the lead.
You could call it a women’s vertical, but the insights, intel and “cute swag information” transcend gender. The full Concorde archive lives here…
Concorde 008, coming at you once again from 60,000 ft. — what’s good !!
We got a Personal Concorde question recently from a Spyfriend “seeking wisdom about all things matching…”
… Sets! Skirt suits, matching top/bottom sets, sweater sets! Specific recommendations, and how to wear them — Nino Mogo
Matching sets are having a moment right now, as evidenced by a ton of cool designers putting out great examples for 2023.
I’ll get into those in a moment, but first, as far as the issue of “how to wear” a matching set: A (the?) fundamental appeal of the form is that it answers ~90% of this question for you: the “heavy lifting” of constructing a harmonious outfit has been done, no thinking required.
That frees up your brain to run wild as far as accessorizing, which is where personality can shine in an otherwise substantially pre-fab fit that might otherwise risk looking unimaginatively “straight off the rack.”
Think about choices that will — via, e.g., color or proportion — cut unexpectedly against the by-definition uniformity / put-togetherness of the set. Say it’s a black & white gingham skirt set by Japan’s Ichi Antiquités — add a pair of red tights. Say it’s a restrained two-piece pant set — wear a super slouchy sock (try these) and a sandal. Say it’s a vest-and-pant set — toss a sheer long-sleeve top underneath, like this bicolor turtleneck by KkCo, to break things up.
Matching sets writ large sometimes get a bad rap as “conservative” and “snoozy”: the stereotypically staid uniform of first ladies and, like “corporate-office-drone conformists.” But not only have they played wildly varied roles in women’s fashion for over a century — those roles have often been SPICY.
Case in point: Get a load of these racy midriff-baring combos that Ingrid Bergman and Barbara Stanwyck rocked while playing “disorderly, disreputable dames” back in the ‘40s. The ensembles bottom left & right were designed by the Classic Hollywood costumes GOAT Edith Head, and while the strappy gold-sequined SUPERNOVA (from 1941’s Ball of Fire) might technically be a dress, the distinction is notional enough that we’ll allow it…
Stanwyck is a true Concorde Hero. She was a 5’5” Brooklyn-born orphan turned Ziegfeld showgirl turned STREETWISE SILVER-SCREEN ICON — singing, dancing, cracking wise and exploring the surprisingly sexy possibilities of “Screwball Swag.” Does that sound staid to you??
The ‘40s were a golden age for sets generally, including many by the legendary designer Claire McCardell, credited with the creation of American sportswear. (The word “sportswear” was first used in American fashion to describe separates, indicating the shift away from formal attire in the 1920s to “easy pieces” that allowed women to move.) This McCardell cocktail ensemble at the Met is from 1947, with a bustier top, skirt and matching jacket, and it looks great today. I love this forest-green apron dress, too, with matching jacket, from 1944.
Just imagine what kind of brassy broads rocked these!
In the ‘60s, miniskirt and petal-pusher-pants combos were the wave. The amazing 1969 yellow-checker Marimekko set above should be in some climate-controlled vault next to the McCardell pieces but, instead, it could live in your closet, because someone’s selling it here.
Before we get to 2023 stuff, there’s a bunch more cool vintage finds out there. Leisure suits were the dominant “set” in the ‘70s, but real talk the polyester-heavy fabrics were pretty gross on the whole and not much fun to think about putting on your skin today. Instead, I’d suggest things along the lines of this vintage linen Escada safari pant set here, and this cute printed skirt set here, made by Souleiado, the oldest producer of Provençal cotton. Maybe a sheer navy-and-white striped late-‘70s Chanel skirt set is more your speed?
The ‘80s, are a huge vintage goldmine when it comes to sets — and searching for two designers in particular turns up some UNISEX greatness: