An ethereal city woman meets a cowgirl and they become best friends. If I could describe Ralph Lauren’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection, those are the words I would use. The people of New York City circa 2010 saw a magnificent repertoire different from Ralph Lauren's usual singular-aesthetic collections. Each look showcases various identities, allowing for multiple ways to style each piece. A not-so-subtle Western theme is prominent in this entire collection with the use of Concho Belts and leather cowboy boots.
However, there are subtle notes of New York City embedded into many of the pieces. A vast majority of the clothing in the collection could be imagined on a woman strutting busy streets on her way to work. This collection masterfully blends both aesthetics, seamlessly integrating their unique elements. Lauren’s use of classic Western wear, lace fringe, neutral coloring with notes of silver, and stunning formal silhouettes create a perfect blend of two seemingly contrasting aesthetics, making this collection wearable for all types of people.
A common thread between the pieces in this collection is the flowy nature of the silhouettes. While some of the pieces tighten at the waist or accentuate certain areas of the body, most of them drape and flow beautifully at the bottom, creating an airy and bodiless appearance. This plays on the shape of many formal dresses that are seen on celebrities whether for a red carpet or elete event. However, this modern look has a twist: lace fringe. This addition gives the entire collection a Victorian feel, while still staying true to the fierce nature of city energy.
A baby blue shade appears throughout the collection, standing out amongst the subtle beiges, creams, and browns that adorn the rest of the pieces. These color choices are essential to the cohesiveness of the collection and are what really give it a cowgirl feel.
Lauren was adamant that the collection not feel too costumey. This is a hard feat when creating a collection inspired by Western clothing. He was lenient with color– browns in various shades are acceptable to enhance the theme. Whether utilized in belts, shoes, or jackets, the incorporation of brown is necessary for the collection to feel cowgirl-esque. Lauren drew the line, he says, at cowboy hats. He recognized that while they could be worn stylishly, their inclusion might detract from the collection's desired aesthetic, veering into tacky territory.
The use of silver is what ultimately elevates this entire collection. It would be strange to find a cowgirl wearing a bright silver gown that would be more suited for someone exploring a city. It looks as though it would blend perfectly with the shiny buildings looming in New York City. The addition of a Concho Belt to this dress quickly reels us back into the Western spirit Lauren is so successful at conveying. The dark brown of the belt contrasted with the silver allows us to picture what this combination of two very different vibes could look like on one person.
The runway show concluded with an enthusiastic Lauren walking and waving down the platform. He strutted in a white polo button-down and brown leather pants embellished with fringe. His look ends the show, reminding us of the clear Western inspiration while still adding elements of urban life. The juxtaposition of the two fashions is an unlikely pairing, but somehow, Ralph Lauren gives women the opportunity to be both cowgirl and city girl all at once.