Ready to Wear: Even on the red carpet knee-length and understated looks modern

By Susannah Frankel

Men. Don't you just love them. I was having breakfast with a friend (male) over the bank holiday weekend who chose, upon arrival and rushing in where angels fear to tread, to opine:

"Aren't you a bit over-dressed?"

Realising, in a split second, (or at least when a cold wind blew through the location in question) that this was the wrong thing to say, he attempted to recover himself.

"It's just that..." (gesticulating anxiously, apparently suggesting flounciness) "... that laciness - what's it called?"

The word he was searching for was, in fact, nothing more mystifying than "chiffon". I was wearing a black crepe dress with a small but far from obtrusive strip of chiffon at the neckline and edging the sleeves. Apart from that, the garment in question was entirely simple – no fishtail, festooning, sparkle, whatever. This was not something that might justifiably be described as a showgirl moment.

Any embarrassment over and done with – it's amazing what eggs Benedict can do for a girl, even a girl who just been subjected to an outrageous slur on her fashion capabilities – the conversation was nothing if not testimony to the erosion of any strict dress codes over the years.

Today – and this can only be a good thing – everything from tuxedo jackets to sequinned leggings may be worn any time, anywhere. In a similar vein, black tie no longer constitutes wearing a floor-length gown, although a woman can if she wants to. Even on the red carpet, knee-length and understated appears more modern, however.

There are various reasons behind this turn of events which has been evolving steadily for years – since the 1960s, in fact – but fashion's current love affair with attaching what might previously have been thought of as elaborate trim to humble garments is perhaps most obviously attributable to one man in particular: Alber Elbaz at Lanvin (collection, pictured right.)

M Elbaz's raison d'etre is to invest his clothes with emotion – not to mention an unusual degree of consideration for any wearer. This viewpoint is predominantly played out by appropriating couture staples – crystal, pearls, ribbon and, of course, chiffon – to pieces that are far from obviously occasionwear, a word with archaic connotations. Elbaz attaches jewelled buttons to a black cashmere cardigan, diamante brooches and fluttering silk ties to rain coats and a whisper of gauzy silk to a T-shirt dress making such combinations seem as effortless and correct as, well, as soft-boiled eggs and hollandaise sauce spilling sunnily over a toasted muffin, neatly enough.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Senior Technical Project Assistant - Hampshire - up to 45K

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + 23 days holiday, pension scheme: Deerfoot IT Resou...

    Senior Multimedia Developer - Southampton - up to £34.5K

    £30000 - £34500 per annum + 36 days holiday, Pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice