Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Frock of the Week

Ok so I'm going to do something a bit different. I'm not normally very interested in 'modern fashion'. A bunch of stick thin girls wearing shapeless clothes that you have no chance of buying if you're larger than a size 8, even if you could afford it. But this weeks Frock is an exception. A few week or so ago Lucy Liu divided the opinions of fashionistas everywhere over her Caroline Herrera gown at the Golden Globes. I personally loved it. it combines the elegance of two of my favourite periods, the silhouette of 18th Century France panier gowns and the elegance of 1950s Dior. The flat-fronted corset of the 1700s emphasising cleavage, tiny waist and then the extremeness of the wide hips provides a stunning silhouette, but it is too impractical for the modern day woman to wear. Any attempts to bring it back into fashion have not filtered down beyond haute couture. And that is why I love this dress. By completely taking away any of the frills and fuss, including the styling, and letting a beautiful print speak for itself, Hererra has finally given the paniers a wearability for the modern woman. Sure it's not for everyone or for everyday, but its not 'costumey'

(As a costume designer I do hate the misuse of that word in fashion, and yet until someone comes up with a better one I think it will have to do. Maybe 'fancydressy' is more appropriate? Or 'Gaga-esque?')
Robe a la francaise c. 1770-1775 France
©The Kyoto Costume Institute, photo by Takashi Haytakeyama

Sure Vivienne Westwood, Dior and co have been influenced by Rococo fashions before, but never with such elegance. They're interpretations have always been luxurious, flamboyant and extreme: impractical for wear beyond the runway.
Maison Christian Dior, Haute couture F/W 2007/2008

Photo by Alessandro Lucioni/VOGUE.COM
Vivienne Westwood, S/S 1996

Collection "Les Femmes" @ Marcio Madeira / Zeppelin
The only gown I can think of that comes close to simplicity of the Caroline Hererra gown is this 1950s Pierre Balmain gown. It is both unmistakeably 1950s and 1770s at the same time, elegant and beautiful. While the dress is the fabric is rich and exquisitely embroidered, the silhouette could not be simpler. I can imagine Grace Kelly wearing this dress.
Pierre Balmain, Haute couture Summer 1954

Collections Galliera @ EPV / J-M Manai, C Millet
I was eager to see more of Hererras collection. It was Pre-Fall (whatever that means!) 2013 and I was not disappointed. It combines an old world couture elegance and a modern playfullness that is very hard to get right. Its all about beautiful fabrics made into deceptively simple yet exquisite feminine dresses. The dress Liu wore is definitely the showstopper of the collection, but its a collection that combines 'wow' pieces, 'I would wear that if I could afford it' pieces, and more interestingly even some 'Oooh I might try making that myself' pieces (see the red, blue and white shirt-dress and the navy organza overlaying the stripe detail).

Obviously I found it difficult to make a short list so I recommend checking the entire collection out here.

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