Forget the LBD, How Extreme Dressing-Up Became Fashionable Once Again

If you’re yet to be convinced by the staying power of fashion’s glitzy new mood, then take these recent notable outfits as proof: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in a red feather mini dress teamed with an all-over crystal clutch and red velvet heels; model Elsa Hosk in a sequin dress, crystal chandelier earrings and glittering pumps; influencer Giorgia Tordini in a purple sequin dress with statement earrings and a feather-covered pouch. What do these looks have in common? Suffice to say that the humble LBD isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley during Paris Fashion Week in September 2018. Getty

The past few years have been a very different story – athleisure, minimalism and understatedness have dominated. Before that, in 2014, we had a form of hyper-normalised styling called normcore, characterised by nondescript, unfussy clothes (basic T-shirts and jeans, in plain English), born of a fatigue in trying to look different.

And then, of course, there was the Phoebe Philo tenure at Céline (with the accent), which influenced whole generations to adopt a pared-back approach to getting dressed – we have her to thank for our longstanding preoccupation with trainers, roll-necks and slouchy silhouettes. Her loyal ‘Philophiles’ were more likely to be caught dusting off their old Stan Smiths than donning any semblance of a sequin. Getting dressed up for an occasion felt uncool or try-hard.

Celine spring/summer 2018. Getty

But while the cool kids were busying themselves with carefree dress codes, the likes of Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent and Alessandro Michele at Gucci were quietly heralding a sparkling new era. A look from Michele’s pre-fall 2017 collection consisted of a full-length embellished gown, glittering heels, satin gloves decorated with a crystal hand bracelet and a three-strand pearl and crystal necklace.

Forget ‘sleek’ or ‘demure’: this was maximalism. It was unapologetically, unabashedly glamorous and shoppers couldn’t get enough of it. Michele has been widely credited with hugely boosting Gucci’s fortunes; in the first fiscal quarter of 2018, the brand reported a 49 per cent growth spurt. In October, the Italian label was named the luxury market’s fastest-growing brand – up 30 per cent to be worth a mighty $12.9 billion.

Amina Muaddi and Giorgia Tordini during Paris Fashion Week in September 2018. Getty

Camille Charriere, once at the heart of the normcore movement, has embraced the shift. “I used to pride myself on being the most underdressed person in the room,” she told us. “But, I stopped worrying about standing out and after my first YSL mini dress moment, it was too late to go back.” MyTheresa buying director Tiffany Hsu echoes this sentiment: “Women are being far more daring and outgoing with their choices,” says Hsu. ‘“They are less concerned about appearing ‘overdressed’ at events and are experimenting much more.”

MyTheresa has always invested in statement pieces. Gucci’s richly embellished looks and Balmain’s sequin dresses are a mainstay of their seasonal buys, but Hsu also highlights the rise of smaller brands such as The Attico, co-founded by journalist and influencer duo Gilda Ambrosio and Giorgia Tordini. “Gilda and Giorgia, among others, have encouraged a more informal way of dressing up,” she says. “Previously, many women would have stuck to a simple dress and pair of heels, but that has changed.”

Attico autumn/winter 2018. Courtesy of brand

Launched in 2015, The Attico’s debut line of satin dressing gowns and embellished pouches became as notable a feature of a rapidly changing street style mood as the duo’s own style. Their electric mix of feather dresses, colourful velvet heels and crystal-embellished jackets – evocative of Gucci’s maximalism mood but more Studio 54 than art studio – is contagious. “We wanted to make every entrance feel like the entrance,” the designers told Net-a-Porter, who launched their debut collection.

Net-a-Porter global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz also credits brands like Alessandra Rich (whose crystal earrings were this season’s most photographed street style accessory) and Magda Butrym with the success of the dressing up movement. “These brands are really honing in on this trend, styling this look with big statement earrings and shoes,” she says. “The 80s was everything from glamorous and sexy to fun and pretty, and everyone wants a bit of that in their collections.” But the buck doesn’t stop there.

Alessandra Rich crystal clip-on earrings, approx. RM1,772.92. Courtesy

London designer Michael Halpern’s all-over sequin dresses and jumpsuits have proved to be a sell-out across the board, and the label’s recently-launched collaboration with Topshop has brought sequin fever to his high-street fans. Other new kid on the block, 16 Arlington, combines couture-like elements, from feathers and crystals to tulle and sequins, to create statement occasionwear that is anything but subtle. Italian label Amina Muaddi’s debut footwear collection has been a rioting success, with the designer – whose best friends happen to be The Attico’s Giorgia and Gilda – launching a contagious combination of brightly coloured satin and pleated tulle heels decorated with chunky crystal brooches. Her designs have certainly hit the right note with Net-a-Porter’s customers – almost every pair has sold out completely.

Amina Muaddi velvet boots, approx. RM2,863.53. Courtesy of brand

If subtlety has been your usual sartorial disposition, then the new more-is-more approach doesn’t mean binning your partywear favourites. While your LBD alone might not cut it, try adding a sequin jacket, an embellished mini bag and Isabel Marant’s glittering heels.

Sound a bit much? Take one-time minimalist Charriere’s advice: “There is something about an outrageous outfit – be it too bright, too short or too feathery – that I now absolutely love. It’s carefree and fun, and you can dress to match your mood. My advice? Try it – you know you want to.”

From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK