Dress Watch: The Bows Make The Frock

Prada bow dress

This season, bows are big. It is a wonder that they haven’t reached their present popularity sooner, given women’s predilection for girlish looks. A bow, as Margaret Thatcher supposedly said, is “rather softening” and she should know, having adopted the pussy cat bow as part of her Downing Street uniform for years. For a public figure who did not downplay her iron lady persona, the irony is not lost. This softening effect could also be the reason Alessandro Michele at Gucci adopted the collar-tied-as-a-bow to give the Florentine label its new-found cool. Hedi Slimane may have revived the pussy cat bow for his Saint Laurent debut in 2013 as anti-chic statement, but its present-day cousins are more in concert with the all-pervading good-girl aesthetic. Prettiness, like femininity, has a long life.

However, the bows we’re more attracted to are not the floppy ones, but the firmer bows seen in quite a few of the dresses from Prada’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection. Miuccia Prada has always treated surface embellishment in unconventional ways, but her bows are quite simply unlike anything you’d expect from something nearly always associated with hair accessories or Ferragamo’s ‘Vara’ pumps. In fact, hers are more akin to courtly regalia. So eye-catching and unusually placed are Prada’s bows that the dresses affixed with them have become a September-issue cover favourite.

Prada slip dress on mag covers AW 2015

Prada’s slip dress with bows on the bodice appears on the September issues of British Harper’s Bazaar (featuring Rosie Huntington-Whitely) and Vogue Japan (featuring Katy Perry)

The bows appear in pairs on shoulders and on the bodice; they impart a whiff of royal elegance, if not pomp, yet they seem rather girlish, too—debutante-girly. Up close, you’ll see that not all the bows are made of grosgrain ribbon as one might expect. Some are in the same fabric as the dress, some are in fur! Regardless, the bows are fashioned in such a way that they’re not entirely flat. In effect, they’re triple layers of confection. We’re partial to some of the colours used such as the one in the main photograph (top)—an off-beat green only Prada will use, and on that dusty blue!

The bows may distract a viewer from the dress, but it’s the dress that deserves attention too. Miuccia Prada makes simple shapes arresting, and she deftly incorporates the subtlest detail to make even a shift shine. Here, the waist is placed near the bust line, and that dimple of a pleat on the waistline to replace the vertical bust dart—that’s not only clever, it’s cute, augmenting the overall sweetness of the dress, even in the form of a cleavage-baring slip. Not surprising, then, that the UK’s Telegraph called the series the “dress that’s defining the new season”.

Prada bow dresses, from SGD4,670, are available at the Ion Orchard boutique

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