Now You Know: Dickies Are Back in Fashion (Yes, Really)

Welcome to Now You Know, InStyle fashion news director Eric Wilson's column that will help you become a fashion know-it-all in one easy read. Each week, he'll take a look at an endearing fashion influence and why it's relevant right now. Enjoy!

NYK Michael Kors
Photo: Courtesy

“I bet you are all wondering what a dickey is,” Michael Kors was saying at his resort presentation on Tuesday afternoon.

Well, most of us have heard before of dickeys, those false shirt collars or faux turtlenecks that happened to have a starring role in the designer’s latest collection (pictured, above). “Layering, without the bulk,” Kors said, pointing to the bright white collars that neatly dressed up his deco knits and prints – some so form fitting that a full shirt would have indeed ruined the look.

And it got me thinking that dickeys, despite their long tradition as a fashion punch line, continue to serve a practical purpose, only different one than that for which they were originally designed. The dickey, a 19th-century invention sometimes spelled dickie or dicky, was so named from Cockney slang for a shirt, which would be a “dicky dirt.” Don’t ask me to explain the rationale of Cockney, or, for that matter, mention the unfortunate period of my 1970s childhood that involved a turtleneck dickey sweater.

Its original purpose was to make the laundering of men’s dress shirts more manageable, back in the day before mass production and fast fashion caused most of us to buy new shirts every time the old shirts grew a bit dingy. But detachable collars and dickeys could be cleaned and ironed separately, turned inside out for a second life, or replaced without throwing away the rest of the shirt.

In today’s world, their purpose, as Kors noted, is to add a bit of versatility to a specific look. This is something designers think more about during the resort presentations, and Kors also noted his focus this season on outfits that looked like dresses, but were actually a combination of skirt and top, so that they could be broken apart to create multiple outfits.

Practical solutions, it turns out, were on the minds of many other designers showing resort this week. “Layers of sportswear in a very elegant form,” said Donna Karan, introducing her excellent array of sophisticated ivory separates, followed by black suitings and a couple shots of pale pink silk evening gowns, the same color as the cherry blossoms that lined her runway (pictured below, from L-R). Casual patchworks featured prominently in the summery halter dresses of Joseph Altuzarra, who featured ikat prints, and Diane von Furstenberg, whose blues looked lighter than chambray.

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And Carolina Herrera’s bright yellow gowns, flacked with black shadow prints of flowers (pictured, below), were so bold and bright that the designer offered visiting editors her own practical solution for looking at them properly. A waiter walked around the crowd offering not snacks nor tropical drinks, but trays of sunglasses.

NYK Carolina Herrera
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