Once Upon A NOMAD CHIC Dress
A riposte to stark minimalism, the magical and decorative world of fairy tales has become one of fashion’s best stories—— by Meenal Mistry for TheWallStreetJournal
“Entering the FALL 2014 Alexander McQueen show, you might not have been surprised to see an elf, gnome or other magical creature gamboling about. The spookily, windswept set felt rather Tolkien-esque. It resembled the Scottish highlands—a beloved reference for the late Mr. McQueen.
The collection by the label’s creative director, Sarah Burton, tapped into an otherworldly, darkly romantic vein of the brand’s DNA and, as it turned out, her models were magical creatures of sorts. One wore a matching cape and dress covered in tiny jewel-tone feathers, as if a willful sorceress had capriciously transformed her into an exquisite bird.
A taste for the fantastical and fairy-tale seems to have cast a spell on the worlds of fashion and design. Dolce & Gabbana’s fall collection, called “Enchanted Sicily,” featured Red Riding Hood capes sweetly appliquéd with foxes and owls. At the Maison et Objet design fair this year in Paris, French firm Moissonnier showed an armoire painted with monkeys dressed in a courtly style making antic poses.
This highly decorative look, often injected with symbolism or mythology, can be incredibly beautiful. “The fantasy kind of feeds [designers’] ability to show what they can do. It’s a platform for craft,” said Paula Reed, creative director of e-commerce site Mytheresa. “These are couture techniques and almost couture prices.” Even so, the site bought heavily into pieces by McQueen as well as Valentino, whose collection was rife with tapestry-like embroideries and motifs of butterflies, stars and hearts—many on high-necked, long-sleeved gowns that would fit seamlessly into the glamorous treachery on “Game of Thrones.”
Still, fairy-tale-inflected elements can be resolved with modern life. London-based designer Erdem Moralioglu, whose show was inspired by Velázquez infantas, did that by cropping his brocade and beaded velvet dresses into what he called “odd ’60s shapes.” “I love contrasting that femininity with something that turns it ever so slightly,” he explained.
What’s interesting about this trend is how much it’s resonated, despite running counter to the prevailing cool school of minimalism. Laura Vinroot Poole, owner of Capitol boutique in Charlotte, N.C., reported that her clientele flipped over the chiffon dresses from Dolce & Gabbana printed with owls and flowering vines. “I’ve never had so many orders as I did on that print,” she said. How did she explain it? “I think it’s innate in women to want that fantastical, theatrical element of dressing up,” she said. “Betty Friedan wouldn’t like it.”