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
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence