Friday, 22 September 2017

Roksanda's Reform

Anyone else swept away by Roksanda's latest offering, a gorgeous, softened up vision of femininity? Shirring and smocking were used to create volume and definition, in a muted colour palette modernised with jolts of yellow, cobalt and fuchsia. Maybe it's because I've just finished reading Heath, Art, and Reason, but I got major Pre-Raphaelite/Artistic/Aesthetic Dress vibes, most notably due to the generous sleeves, relaxed, languid silhouette, and of course the shirring/smocking. The girl in the pink dress above surely just walked out of Liberty's circa 1897, or out of a Walter Crane illustration? There was an earthy, crafty naivety to the collection, with touches of raffia and rope. Embellishment was spare, and when used remained within that realm of subdued, natural beauty so favoured by early Aesthetes. Print was also largely absent, and when it did appear, took the form of simple, abstracted floral, just as Aesthetic dress would avoid the gaudy, ornate patterns of fashionable Victorian dress (and interiors). Naturally, this being a designer collection of elevated quality, the fabrication is perhaps a little luxurious for our original Aesthetic dress proponents, whose mission early on was as much a political statement on democracy and women's rights than mere aesthetics.      

Of course, Aesthetic Dress, off the back of Rational Dress, was one of the first examples of sub-cultural style to attempt subversion of the fashionable and societal norm- in this case of the habitual encasement of Victorian women's bodies within restrictive, uncomfortable, and unhygienic clothing. Fashion has relaxed within the current decade, and there is evidence of the pin-thin ideal losing its grip. Here, Roksanda caters to those less interested in flashing a figure attainable by very few, but offers a view of fashion that is both comfortable and beautiful (without turning to the athleisure trope that has at this point been done to death and clearly never appealed to me). Those exaggerated sleeves may not be for everyone, but her gowns offered the flattering option of gathered natural waists, or the looser empire line. Wear over trousers with heels, or with sandals and hair-undone, the effect is the same- relaxed and elegant. So would I wear any of it? Absolutely. But of course, I'd probably ruin the simplicity with a plethora of jewels, as is my wont; and what is more, the pic'n'mix nature of fashion these days would allow me to do so. Unlike the era of the Aesthetes, Fashion is no longer based on a single narrative, but takes multiple forms. Roksanda is by no means an anti-fashion label (I'm not sure those exist in any capacity), yet clearly she has more than just an aesthetic to thank the Aesthetes for.         

All catwalk images from 
Other images, from top-bottom: Liberty catalogue, 1905; 1890's velvet dress; 1895 tea dress; Julia Margaret Cameron, Pre Raphaelite study 1870; Walter Crane, The Tempest; Liberty catalogue, 1908; James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs France Leyland, 1872-3; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Monna Rossi, 1867; Jane Morris and daughter, 1874.

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