The dress reigns supreme this season with hardly a Ready-To-Wear collection that has not cast it in a leading role (TULEH). Across the designers’ lines its versions are even more varied and versatile. From the iconic wrap styles to the staple sheath this strong trend in the return to the ‘must have’ dress will again render it the wardrobe staple as in generations past.
“Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.” Yves Saint Laurent
The moods of Spring encompass breezy sophisticates (BILL BLASS), smooth sexiness (GIORGIO ARMANI), and sheer openness (CALVIN KLEIN and BCBG). We see light, easy feminine versions; simple, delicate creations from designers who translate their ‘love’ of dresses (CAROLINA HERRERA) to dresses you’ll ‘love’ to wear.
The shirtdress is back with its “June Cleaver” sweetness. It’s neat and crisp with clean lines and smart details (RALPH LAUREN). Not heavy or cumbersome, worn with or without a belt or with a short or 3/4 sleeve cardigan, it is functional and feminine and will satisfy a multitude of scenarios for the work week as well as the weekend.
Volume is in. From the full skirted baby dolls and the bubble and gathered hems, to the tent, trapeze and muu muu styles you’ll find a lot of fabric to contend with this season. Be sure you wear your correct size so that the volume will be in proportion to your frame. Too small and you’ll look ‘stuffed’ into the parts that are designed to fit the body, too big… you can easily look ‘sloppy.’
Designers are offering a great selection of body skimming sheaths and standout chemise styles (KARL LAGERFELD) truly a joy to wear especially if your silhouette has some figure challenges (slight tummy, thick waist, etc.). Also to enhance your proportions the ‘floating’ waistlines are presented in so many collections. The empire/high waist (VIVIENNE TAM), the natural waistline (CAROLINA HERRERA), the belted waist (BILL BLASS), the drop waist (OSCAR de la RENTA, ANNA SUI, 3.1 PHILIP LIM), these elements when executed in various fabrics (cottons, linens, silks) and patterns (florals geometrics, abstracts or plaids) as well as in wovens or knits offer limitless combinations for you to enjoy.
High waist a-lines with knee skimming skirts worn with cropped jackets (CHLOE) afford a great opportunity to engineer your proportion and soft, flowing sleeves can give a youthful look to your outfit.
BEHNAZ SARAFPOUR shows the easy going chemise shift with piping details, contrast black and white and worn over skinny crop pants for a very upscale casual look.
Caution: With so many choices selecting the style for you can be daunting. First rule: know your shape then select a style that flatters rather that frustrates.
Soft jerseys, matte jerseys, lots of silks, chiffons, organzas, georgettes, crepes and crepe de chine, luxurious charmeuse and silk blended with rayon and cotton all show up in the fabrics of Spring. Cottons also show up in a strong way in voiles, piques, boucles, jacquards and blended with silks. Linen, the perennial spring fabrication, makes its appearance in stand-alone tissue versions as well as blended with cotton and silk leading to a perfect weight supporting the season’s cast of flattering body beautiful contributors.
DEREK LAM’S collection includes cotton poplin presented in the soft, clean, comfortable ‘elegant but humble’ spirit of American design. 3.1 PHILIP LIM shows a T-shirt dress with a generous sprinkling of rosettes all in white.
The miracle of stretch has been added across the board mixing its magic in everything from the sheerest silk georgette to the dense stretch wool crepe. This is by far the winner in the category of “best supporting comfort”.
Necklines are varied offering something for everyone. Choose your most flattering from among the candidates: boat neck, strapless, scoop neck (CYNTHIA STEFFE), rounded square, halter (DONNA KARAN) ruffled (BETSEY JOHNSON), off-the-shoulder, squared-off deep v’s (AKRIS) or the soft drape (DKNY). A good variety can be seen at TULEH.
Sleeve lengths also abound in variety from the sleeveless to the kimono with collections featuring all the in between versions: the cap sleeve (3.1 PHILIP LIM, ZAC POSEN), the short puff sleeve (RALPH LAUREN), the short bubble (STELLA MCCARTNEY), the lantern sleeve (BURBERRY PRORSUM), the 3/4 sleeve (cuffed and plain), the poet (CHLOE), and the bell (MATTHEW WILLIAMSON).
SKIRTS AND HEMLINES:
Skirts and hemlines are equally generous in choices ranging from short and shorter to shortest (BLUMARINE). We’re seeing draped (DONNA KARAN), wrapped and bias cut (DKNY); trumpets, tents and trapeze (OSCAR de la RENTA); balloons, bubbles (MALANDRINO) and baby dolls; ruffled (VALENTINO), ruched and rolled; gathered and straight, pleats and pencils, flapper and flirty, asymmetrical (MICHAEL KORS) and tiered and the classic straight hems. Details go from dainty to daring; from the sweetness of eyelet and lady-like lace to the drama of beaded and belted, and double bubbled balloons.
YVES SAINT LAURENT showcases plaids, big and bold and beautiful. NICOLE MILLER offers wonderful prints. DIANE VON FURSTENBERG has florals in full bloom. ISSEY MIYAKE shows bold abstracts and we see beautiful tribals at GIVENCHY. The combinations at MISSONI come alive as the colors harmonize with each other. At VALENTINO the stark white and vivid primaries speak to the clean crisp feel of Spring.
All this awaits the eager buyer this season. So this season, why not celebrate the dress and all that it represents… after all what is important is “…the woman who is wearing it.”
Karen Hodge, speaker, author, fashion editor, designer, and style coach, is the owner of KEH & ASSOCIATES – A Wardrobe Consultancy. She conducts workshops and seminars for corporate and private clients on perfecting personal style-developing wardrobes for individual lifestyles.