Runway to Real Way. No Whips Needed: Chic Ways to Wear Black Leather

Fall fashion boasts an abundance of rich and decadent fabrics. Suede, shearling and fur are all staples of any fall wardrobe; yet few materials leave a lasting impression like leather. Leather, specifically black leather, is a bold and sexy statement even in the most conservative of shapes. It can vamp up a sugary sweet evening ensemble or serve as an edgy alternative for a humdrum office outfit (when worn appropriately), and designers seemed to recognize its versatility this season. Fall 2011 shows brimmed with a bevy of black leather, cut into striking shapes that ran the gamut from dominatrix to equestrian. And though many would be deemed as too dramatic for everyday wear, this season’s black leather runway looks serve as a useful source of inspiration for how to incorporate the look into your closet.
Black leather pants have been immortalized since the days of big-haired rock gods gyrating their hips against a microphone pole. The versions of today feature more modern, skintight cuts and a glossy finish for those brave enough to give the trend a try (and everyone should!) Ann Demeulemeester dressed her wild things in theatrical multi-colored fur for an almost Billy Idol circa ‘Labyrinth” look (speaking of rock gods) with a gorgeous pair of patent pants. A slightly more subtle (and much more affordable!) take comes compliments of Sachin + Babi, whose faux leather leggings boast the same amount of shimmy for a fraction of the sticker shock.
Leather coats are tricky. Jackets are short and can therefore get away with a variety of cuts and styles. But leather coats, the hemlines of which hover around the knee, is a heavy statement that threatens to swallow one up in its bulk. Also with such a big piece of black leather, one can easily be mistaken for the head of their local True Blood fan club. So to make the look more Trinity from The Matrix and less Goth vampire girl, find a sophisticated shape. Ever the envelop-pusher, Yohji Yamamoto showed tailored trenches that embodied his signature over-the-top style, yet still retained a sense of polish that made them wearable. For an even more realistic option, Ellen Tracy’s Zip Front Leather Coat has a unique, fashion forward shape to it that would also make anyone think twice before messing with you.
Every man’s fantasy lies within the leather skirt. But if you don’t want to be stuck in the biker chick fantasy that comes with wearing a leather mini, drive them even crazier with a leather skirt that covers more than it reveals. The team behind Martin Margiela, a man once known for creating fantasies with his clothes, came out with a leather maxi skirt that defied all the preconceived notions of the leather skirt. Like two voluminous sheets of liquidy fabric, it’s undeniably sexier than a scant little mini. Tone down the drama and bring up the hemline and you have a perfectly viable option for work, such as Raoul’s Lamb Nappa Leather Pencil Skirt. The high-waist lie and knee length make the shape office friendly and a fun alternative to wool or tweed. Plus, sexy secretary fantasies are much more fun anyway…
And lastly, while on the topic of keeping the sexuality of your leather in check, there are some occasions for which an entirely leather dress is needed. There are even more occasions, however, for which a somewhat leather dress is needed. Catch the drift? If you want to splurge on a new LBD, incorporating leather will make a sassy, sexy addition to your wardrobe. But keep in mind the cost per wear when picking an entirely leather dress and how much you would actually use it. Don’t get us wrong we love leather dresses, like this zip-front piece from Loewe. But again, unless you’re keeping a whip in your back pocket, the all black leather look can be a bit severe. Instead, opt for a flirty frock with leather accents for a sweet and sexy touch. This little number from Parker even has the same zip-front but in a decidedly more feminine and playful shape.
If you do choose to vamp up your wardrobe with a little devil may care black leather this season, be sure to make the trend your own. That way you won’t feel like a vampire or a dominatrix or a superhero; you’ll just feel like you, rocking a great new outfit!
1. Leather Pants
Runway: Ann Demeulemeester Fall 2011 RTW
Real Way: Sachin + Babi Faux Leather Zucko Pants, $175
2. Leather Coat
Runway: Yohji Yamamoto Fall 2011 RTW
Real Way: Ellen Tracy Zip Front Leather Coat (Nordstrom Exclusive), $398
3. Long Leather Skirt
Runway: Martin Margiela Fall 2011 RTW
Real Way: Raoul Lamb Nappa Leather Skirt, $395
4. Leather Dress
Runway: Loewe Fall 2011 RTW
Real Way: Parker Leather Inset Dress in Black, now $118.80
—Alia Rajput
Runway Images: NY Mag
Image Layout: Amy Newling

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