The Prada Autumn/Winter 2023 women’s collection by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons re-examines the notion of jolie laide. Yet again, the fashion behemoth subverts conventional perceptions of beauty thru a collection of modest and simple looks.

Credit: SCMP

As the saying goes, “beauty is pain”, but in the case of the latest Prada collection, beauty equals practicality. Rather than showcasing the traditional glamour and sparkle on the runway, Prada and Simons show us something more familiar to the everyday eye: the uniform.

The uniform, whether a nurse’s, an office employee’s, or an army worker’s, is a universal concept. It can provide a sense of belonging or identity, or help people recognise someone’s purpose in society. But it can also be plain and unoriginal. Prada makes sure to avoid this possibility.

A More Simple Uniform

Credit: SCMP

These somewhat uninspiring looks are infused with “aesthetic references borrowed from another realm”. Flowers dotted on skirts and shoes, pastel eyelashes, and brightly coloured collars are just some examples. Such features add frivolity and personality, breathing life into the outfits. The audience is asked to reconsider how they might normally see “modest and simple” jobs. Whilst seemingly uninteresting and unspectacular, the hard work of these uniform wearers is what keeps our world turning.

Beauty is Comfort

The collection also reconceptualises the concept of beauty as comfort. The audience watches protective clothing items walk the runway, like suede and leather with padding, and puffer skirts. This plays into the notion of “safekeeping”. In this sense, the models have a figurative and literal shield from the craziness of our modern world.

Credit: SCMP

The easily wearable outfits, including small heels and loose-fitting dresses, suggest that one does not have to feel uncomfortable or restrained to be beautiful. Your skirt riding up as you sit down or your feet covered in blisters from wearing stilettos doesn’t have to be the answer.  And what Prada says goes.

Prada and Simons wrote in the show notes:

“Beauty here is determined not by aesthetic, but by action—garments are signs, representations of the beauty of care, of love, of reality,”

Beauty is not unattainable, it is in fact waiting for you in your wardrobe. Prada tells us to take pride in our uniforms, however they may look.

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