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Undressing the Dress

Dresses from the DecadesFrom Lily Allen wearing that pink Chanel dress with the matching quilted bag, to Crystal Renn in Zac Posen, January Jones in Versace or Diane Kruger in Calvin Klein, the dress has come in itself a long way.


As high as your upper thigh or as low, so the skirt touches the ground, the dress has made the biggest impact on the fashion industry.


In the nineteenth century, dresses were styled into the hoopskirt and crinoline styles of the 1860s, where the fullness of the dress was pulled tight at the back. The dresses were designed with a ‘day’ bodice, which included the feature of a high neckline and long sleeves, where as ‘night’ bodices had a low neckline (décolleté) and shorter sleeves. During this period, dresses differed from floor-sweeping to ankle-length.


1920s flapper dressesIt would not be until the twentieth century where the dress would receive numerous makeovers and transitions. In 1910 the Hobble dress was designed in where it was close fitting with a tight skirt, this was closely followed, well, ten years later followed, by the 1920s Flapper dress that was shorter in length, and either fringed or feathered at the trim. In this time Chanel designed the famed LBD (little black dress) and even as far as Shanghai, Chinese women wore the Cheongsam, a body hugging one-piece dress worn by socialites and upper class women, otherwise known as a Mandarin gown.


The length of the 1920s dress stayed fixed for the next thirty years, until the famed 1950s and 1960s fashion revolution of the ‘mini’. Twiggy herself modelled the risk-daring mini dresses, as well as skirts, that bared most of the woman’s leg, in a time where people were only use to seeing as high as part of the knee.


More designers were able to flow more freely, this can be identified with designers such as Pierre Cardin and his emblazoned minishift dresses with his trademark bright colours, Andre Courreges who was the true creator of the ‘mini’ skirt, Pucci, Mary Quant who gave the ‘mini’ its name, renowned for her look of the mini skirt, with patent leather boots, heavy eye make up, false eyelashes and the five point bob hairstyle.


Onwards from the 60s, longer dresses were being reintroduced, this meant that different trends of dresses coexisted together peacefully. The ‘mini’ did create the biggest impact, but lets not forget the Gown worn still at banquets, operas or galas, the Ball Gown that is accompanied with a full sweeping skirt worn for white-tie occasions and the Cocktail dress that has been famed for parties from the 1950s onwards.


The emergence of the dress has gone through a number of changes, yet these still are evident today. What is next in line for fashion’s must have, what will the future hold?


Versace Spring-Summer 2011Well, for 2011 the 70s look is playing a key role, and tribal and floral prints are having another showcase. Versace has reinvented the dress shape in her Spring/Summer 2011 collection, with keywork designs and sleek, unusual silhouettes.

Mid-length cuts can be seen throughout the catwalk, as well as floor-sweeping, projecting a vision of fairy-tale femininity as identified in Alberta Ferretti’s collection.

As time goes on, the dress can only become stronger and more powerful, and excite more with its numerous transformations.




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