The popularity of the movie American Hustle has predictably caused a number of designers to look back at styles from the 1970s. I lived through that decade, suffered through wearing those styles, and don’t necessarily find re-visiting them to be a positive thing. While DVF’s wrap dresses are still relevant, the greater number of styles are not something anyone really wants to see hanging in their closet.

So, Vivienne Tam’s fall/winter 2014 comes in as a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to wearability. On one hand, there are, as always, some absolutely gorgeous prints. Pulling references from the ancient cave paintings of Dunhuang, China opens the door to not only some amazing imagery, but the opportunity to introduce textures that would have been a bit of a stretch otherwise. Crocheted lace done with metallic thread? That’s not something one is likely to find in any other collection from any other designer. Tam really reaches out and does some amazingly beautiful things with fabric.

This season also brings Tam’s first experimentation with handbags. Exactly why she’s not done so before I don’t know, but she shows a natural aptitude for them with classic styling that augments her brand and her clothes nicely. When it comes to creating value, this is definitely an area that is likely to benefit her and help the label to grow significantly. I should also say something about the decorative stockings that accompany several of the ensembles, although, I’m not sure they work for an American aesthetic. Too often, the stockings only make a very active look feel that much busier, sometimes to the point of unwanted distraction.

We still can’t escape the fact, though, that the 70s silhouettes are dated. The full-length styling on several of the dresses, especially peasant dresses, is not an aesthetic likely to gain any popularity with any portion of the market not involved with theme parties. While Tam’s detailing is, as always, exquisite and lux, more women are going to focus on the fact that the dresses look too much as though they’ve been borrowed from a museum.

Vivienne Tam has long been one of my favorite designers, but at the end of the day I was disappointed with the collection as a whole. Yes, there are some absolutely lovely pieces here, but not nearly as many as a Vivienne Tam collection normally holds, and that just makes me sad.

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