It was only a matter of time before designers began taking inspiration from Ryan Murphy’s new show, Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, in which glamorous costumes play a big part. But for designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka, the fall reference felt especially authentic—given they used to mingle with some of the New York City socialites the series is based on. “James and I were lucky enough to live down the street from C.Z. Guest,” said Badgley. “We were together constantly—I lived with her in Palm Beach for a year. I was always so inspired by how she put herself together and the stories about her friends.”
This season, then, the design duo wanted to pay homage to the elegant evening attire that the Swans donned for their upper-echelon galas and cocktail parties. “The way they used to dress back then—a beautiful column gown with one alluring detail—is kind of like how our girls like to dress today,” said Badgley. “Everything is bold and simple.” The challenge that came with this, however, was finding a way to do retro glamour that felt current—and not like a costume. To do so, the pair leaned into their signature assortment of gowns, cocktail dresses, and suits in a more muted color palette—designing around metallics, blacks, and jewel tones. “We’ve done so much color lately, but all of sudden our ladies love black again,” he added.
Some of the looks did feel modern and worthy of a 2024 Swan. A sleek navy sequined sheath dress featured an asymmetrical ruching detail, giving it just enough visual interest; ditto the gunmetal gray suit and the one-shoulder magenta gown with opera gloves—perfect for slinking into any uptown bash. There were other looks, however, that would simply never be worn below 14th Street—and maybe that was the whole point. The Chanel-esque tweeds felt a little too referential of ladies who lunch, and one wonders if any woman would feel her best in piles and piles of ruffles, which were added onto some of their floor-length dresses. Then again, to be a Swan is to lean into the superfluous.
Whether fancy frocks are your taste or not, it’s undeniable that the Upper East Side aesthetic is one that the label has been perfecting for years—the Swans inspiration was a match made in heaven. The duo even have a new set of Swans in mind to wear this latest collection. Namely their longtime clientele’s daughters. “All of our customers’ daughters are coming into society now,” said Mischka. He envisions the new pieces on names like Mercedes de Guardiola. “She’s beautiful, elegant, and already a published author,” said Mischka. “Brilliant and beautiful.”