Recently, I got my hands on a copy of the film “Valentino: The Last Emperor which chronicles a year in the life of Valentino Garavani. Not only are viewers treated to a study of Valentino’s character with a uniquely close eye, but they are also invited to see how haute couture really comes together.
Valentino is of course, synonymous with a particular shade of red, most notably when executed in floor sweeping regal gowns. Valentino’s red dresses are as iconic as Givenchy’s black dresses or Coco Chanel’s tweed jacket and skirt numbers. But Valentino’s really carried on until his recent retirement from the art of old school evening wear.
But what struck me while watching Valentino and his team put together his last collection is this: evening wear in the classic sense is dying, and even in Egypt where weddings take place most weekends of the year, people and the fashion world’s attitudes to evening wear is slowly growing lax.
Why is that? The dresses are getting longer, fussier and more regal on the red carpet. Yet somehow, ironically, evening wear is the only trend not to follow through from Hollywood and the haute couture catwalks to the high street stores. Short dresses with little embellishment or design considerations have replaced creations of chiffon, satin and lace. It’s all about the short strapless number. And I, along with many older women, cry out for the golden days when dressing up was de rigueur.
As the Spring Summer 2010 runway shows reveal what is to come next year, I’m struck by the sheer amount of trends and thoughts designers are throwing out. Leather, denim, chiffon mixed with leather, blousy chiffons and harsh latex materials. Ethereal blouses and back to basics blazers. Very little, if no evening wear appears on the runways. And nothing seems to flow together collectively: not only are people trying to make sense of the economy but designers are taking wild stabs in the dark as to what consumers want to buy.
During the Paris Fashion Week, Portuguese Fatima Lopes exhibited some colorful evening wear, slightly reminiscent of Valentino’s style: long, feminine, demure, shocking at times yet ultimately, always striving for creativity and elegance.
So, how to follow evening wear trends this year?
If you want to follow current trends on the runways, it’s short and bizarre if you look to the Americans. Proenza Schouler brought out short dresses with metallic embellishments, scales and sequins; not likely numbers to wear to your cousin’s wedding.
Yet, most red carpet affairs are now revealing very simple numbers as worn by Rachel Bilson at a recent charity function in Italy. So can one argue now that the attitude of the recession and tight times is starting to hit the red carpet as well?
If so, then the era of real evening wear glamour might be coming to an end, a tragedy I might not be able to stomach. But for the time being, some hints on the catwalks show that maybe we need to reconsider evening wear.
Balmain showed a very short and risqué number highly embellished and extravagant in contrast to Lopes’ long gown in delicate silk and chiffon that is austerely unadorned. Bright colors dominated the catwalks in addition to silver, so perhaps it’s simply a matter of choosing length over detail, color versus heavy embellishments.
But with the amounts of weddings soon coming up, it will be interesting to see how the trends play out. I’m predicting a lot of color, and hoping to see a bold soul or two take a chance with a demure number of classic silks and chiffons.