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Romancing the dress
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 22 - 03 - 2007

By Lubna Abdel-Aziz
Spring and romance, what a winning couple! As they go hand in hand with the birth of a new season, they are gracefully joined by a new fashion spirit in a youthful, flirtatious saunter, throughout summer's verdant gardens.
By definition, Fashion infers constant change -- in today, out tomorrow. A manifestation of human needs and moods, Fashion is invariably influenced by social, political, economic, cultural, and artistic events. Trends follow the public's mindset, and designers highlight that in our attire. Even scientific discoveries and milestones, such as space exploration, have dominated every aspect of fashion design for years. Many futuristic designs are prevalent this season, perhaps world conditions are so distasteful, designers are reaching for future comforts. The common theme, however, is the return of romance in the shape of girly, flirty, dresses, in enticingly short lengths.
Dresses in every style imaginable define the Spring/Summer season 2007. While hemlines have been rising steadily for the last two years, this season's silhouettes are for extremely revealing legs. Gone is the deep cleavage and bare midriff of past years. This leggy look may be bad for some of us, but it can be easily worn in tunic tops over leggings or skinny pants. The high-waisted "empire" is a noticeable trend flattering to all figures, and can be worn in a sky-high hemline, which would be the must-have dress for this season.
Volume is another key statement which surfaced in the fall, but has now taken a more refined and shapelier form. A roomier A-line is alluring, in the swing of a fuller skirt or the flare of a trapeze dress. Even the loose silhouette of a swagger coat or a swing-back cropped jacket, is more desirable for the fuller figures, rebelling against the body-hugging trends intended for the under 20 group.
Reflections of the 1960s dominate in retro futurist styles, versions of the grandeur of Kubrik's Space Odyssey, in fantasy armour satins, patent, plastic, rubber and leather.
Not the dress type? No intention of showing some leg? You can still step in style in slouchy pants often worn with long tunics or mini-dresses, or with leggings or skinny, skinny pants.
Dazzling neon bright colours, and clash in colour mixes, may draw too much attention, but are favoured by the very young. Fortunately, the high street has opted to follow the lead of Muiccia Prada and her use of richer jewel tones. Blue makes a strong statement in vivid ultra marine or bright electric tones. Yellow and gold have graced all runways, also gold, silver, coffee and copper. Do not shy away from gold, silver or other metallics; wear them all day, even in luxurious sporting looks.
Apart from the aggressive colours, bold florals, and abstract designs, texture is everywhere. Christian Lacroix embarked on spring's romantic journey with detailed encrustation and intense collages on his 60s- inspired garments.
Brocade, lace, and crochet dresses appear more lustrous over shining coloured petticoat skirts for dedicated fashionistas. The gleaming look draws attention and adds weight. If that is not the desired intent, just add items with metallic trim to your outfit. Even passementeries is making a comeback, aiding in the glamour of the metallic trend.
What can we say more than what has already been said about Karl Lagerfeld and his vigorous revival of the House of Chanel. Once again, with perfect pitch, the master has dashed off yet another virtuoso demonstration of how to step in style. Upbeat, light, and breezy. A-line fluttered sans effort with white flared tops, over little black short dresses, with a gold, quilted chain bag as highlight. His accessories, always a hot item, are to die for this season.
Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana went overboard with futurist designs. Lebanese-born Elie Saab showed a fresh vitality in his luxurious haute couture gowns, and John Galliano luckily has toned down his eccentricities in this season's star-studded collection of theatrical charm. Valentino, always Valentino, rich in high-glam and sexy elegance.
Fortunately for the down to earth working woman we have the sobering Ralph Lauren, forever sharp, but sensibly practical. Always a polished collection it included a hint of exotic inspirations from India and North Africa. Pin-striped vests, and wide-legged cuffed trousers are Lauren staples to which he adds snug-fitting and peplummed jackets.
Fabrics are extra important this season, they shimmer and glimmer like never before. Silk has been desired for centuries, but never more so than now. It falls naturally, hangs delicately, holds its structural integrity, keeps us cool in the summer and surprisingly warm in the winter. Paris Haute Couture's ultra feminine look, is super-silky in body- hugging and fluffy bubble dresses purely a la Française.
Big bags are still big, although the oversized volume is often ridiculously more like a piece of luggage! Shoes are either thin-strapped sandals or wedges, but the platform made steady gains and remains a consumer's favourite. If you do not own a pair of huge sunglasses that completely cover your face, you should. Put to rest your chandelier earrings, replace them with tiny studs or large hoops. Necklaces are still big, and a huge bangle will finish your look.
Summer should find us in a romantic mood, clad in diaphanous silks, revealing sun-tanned legs in empire shift or shirt styles. Our colours should be acid yellow or electric blue, with occasional neutrals of peach, beige, sand, or stone. Sober minds will stay clear of glaring fads. Pant lovers though, have not much to choose from. Trousers were practically non- existent in Paris, neither were jeans. Look for the US to provide upper casual wear in neon brights and luxurious satins that can take you almost anywhere. Iridescent make-up looks young under the glare of the summer sun, and pink blushes complement the look of romance.
Why has fashion become so mandatory in the last few decades? There may be many reasons of course, with the world getting smaller by the hour. No doubt television in general and fashion television in particular have made such an impact on an addicted public.
Be fashionable if you must, but above all be stylish. While fashion may be hot for a season, style is forever!
It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds
-- "The Jay and the Paycock" Aesop (Sixth century BC)

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