Ready to Wear: The Little White Dress is fraught with complications

By Susannah Frankel
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:24

You look like Marie Antoinette,” says J. Is that supposed to be an insult, a compliment or a joke? Just because he’s on the Grazia fashion jury, he thinks he’s it – clearly.

I am trying on a little white dress, a summer staple, according to, well, to Grazia actually. Although it is very slightly muslin-y (to the trained eye, this is, in fact, loosely woven linen) there is not a frill, furbelow or even a pannier in sight. Instead it’s the height of simplicity – even, one might not unreasonably argue, pure.

Ah, pure. While the average man can easily understand the entirely urbane little black dress, which is the by now clichéd autumn/winter alternative to the above, the very same garment in white appears to be less easy on the eye – and this despite the fact that letting them eat cake is unlikely to be on any half reasonable 21st-century woman’s agenda.

It is true that while the LBD’s beauty lies in its ease, the LWD is more fraught with complication. White, to begin with, is a symbol of virginity (hmmm... challenging). Wearing it might bring to mind the hammed-up erotica of Anaïs Nin, say, who liked to dwell on young girls hanging upside down from the branches of apple trees, their white cotton underwear on display for all to see. Call it the Wimbledon effect, but the thought of strolling about town in a white tennis dress and equally pristine plimsolls nonetheless appears strangely appealing just now.

White jersey is obviously to be avoided because it is a) unforgiving to the point of cruel, and b) has more in common with the wardrobe of a working girl than a maiden. And all-white fabric turns yellow when in contact with oil-based suncream.

If money is no object, a frilly white fairy dress courtesy of Marc Jacobs is quite the prettiest thing, particularly when worn by an equally pretty nymphette about town.

Jil Sander’s white shift dresses with discreetly disrupted surfaces are a more minimal take. But the very brave might like to wait for early autumn and snap up a Comme des Garçons LWD.

These are aggressively padded and so not all that little, truth to tell: anyone with remotely bucolic intentions need not apply.

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