As a child, most history lessons were spent pondering not the political ins and outs that led us to various wars, but the exquisite dress worn by both the significant figures and the every day people of days gone by. When we learnt about our monarchs, I coveted their extravagant gowns; ostentatious in their splendour. When we learnt abut the Victorian era, I was enchanted by the bustles, crinolines and swathes of luxurious fabrics. Why had I been born into an era of jeans and t-shirts? I longed to sashay down elegant hallways adorned in embroidered silk and rich lace.
My favourite era was (and still is) Georgian. The elbow length sleeves, hemmed with cascading frills; the wide set necklines; the voluminous skirts; the ruffles; the bows. In hindsight, the practicalities of wearing such finery day to day must have been uncomfortable and wearisome, yet there’s a romance in the idea of such pageantry in every day life.
No costume design has captivated me and reignited my daydreams quite as much as that of Sophia Coppola’s 2006 telling of ‘Marie Antoinette’. Milena Canonero’s inspired and award winning design transported me to an era of excess and indulgence that I could only begin to imagine on those days sat in the uninspiring surroundings of my primary school classroom. Why, as time passed, I wondered, had clothes become so pedestrian? Yes, jeans might be more practical, but wouldn’t life be more fun in frills?
In recent years cool minimalism has reigned supreme. The pared down, 90s inspired aesthetic became ubiquitous among street stylers, bloggers and Instagrammers alike. Quiet and understated, the look epitomises a sense of effortless sophistication and a dedication to quality over quantity. My appreciation for this is much the same as my appreciation for opera. I appreciate its beauty, I can see why it works for other people, but it’s not for me.
So, the return to a more theatrical way of dressing feels like a warm, familiar embrace. In place of crisp shirts are louche and fluid blouses; in place of slim-line cigarette pants are capacious flares. The new silhouette is altogether more dramatic. Tulle, jacquard, velour and lurex add depth and a sense of decadence, whilst frills and ribbons tie the whole thing up with a whimsical flourish. High necks and elongated sleeves are also reference points in high rotation and communicate the costume influences which peppered the moodboards of many designers for pre-fall (who knew Changing Rooms-era Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen would become a style icon?).
MSGM’s pre-fall collection blends ruffles, softly structured tulle and luxe fabrics with unexpected architectural elements and sportswear influences for a contemporary perspective. The light-hearted exuberance of the more elaborate pieces is met with the refinement of carefully considered cuts and a silhouette that, when you look beyond the ruffles, is slim-line and neatly tailored. It’s an exercise in eloquent contrast.
Osman, in a slightly more straightforward interpretation, evokes the elaborate style of Little Lord Fauntleroy with his theatrical suiting and over-sized pendulous bows tied under the collar. Not all of his looks had quite the same grandeur or volume, but those that did – his menswear in particular – were uncompromisingly flamboyant.
Known for her use of volume to create clothes that are at once sculptural and buoyant, Kym Ellery is well placed to design a collection that speaks to a more lavish aesthetic. In a departure from previous collections, the tailoring follows a more narrow line, serving to further accentuate the statuesque mutton-sleeves and kicked out bell bottoms which are focal points amongst the line up. The nonchalant draping and ‘undone’ styling of a handful of looks lends a languid tone for an overarching theme of understated excess.