Short Is Not A Cut Above

A Singaporean journalist was booted out of the Oscars press room early this week for not wearing a long evening dress to the event. If only the folks at the Oscars knew: she was just showing them a typical Singaporean

 

By Mao Shan Wang

That poor girl. She didn’t know, perhaps. Or, maybe she knew but couldn’t be bothered. Formal attire at the Academy Awards is standard. She should have asked me and I would have told her to stick to baju kurong—they’ll definitely let her in. Instead, she chose—and, gosh, felt fabulous—in “knee-length shimmery dress, killer heels and formal blazer”, a combination that, as it appears to me, look right on an auditor attending her company’s D&D, but at the Oscars, could be something belonging to Elisa Esposito on her day off, stumbling onto the red carpet by mistake, minus her love interest, the humanoid amphibian.

That she had survived the kick-out and was keen to tell all about it showed that many Singaporean girls are not embarrassed by their lack of sense of occasion. This is typical of the young today: I am in my best dress—that’s good enough. And it shimmers! That’s evening enough. I pair it with a “formal” jacket! That’s grand enough. And don’t forget my killer heels! They’re high enough!

Just as not all that glitters is gold, all that shimmers is not necessarily evening wear. Short and shimmery, less so, unless you’re headed to 1-Altitude. And just because it’s a jacket—even a double-breasted one—does not mean it’s formal. A blazer, especially in Prince of Wales check (or similar), is definitely not part of a formal ensemble. As for those killer heels, I am sorry to say, the more killer they are, the more they will spell death to red carpet elegance. Girl, this wasn’t the night your boyfriend took you to his mother’s birthday party at a hotel coffee house.

And feeling sorry for yourself is definitely not Night-at-the-Oscars-smart. Even Ryan Seacrest wore a tux! Who cares if you were “nursing jet leg”? Or, that you would leave the day after? Those invitees arriving from London were probably jet-lagged too, and would scoot off just as quickly. It is convenient to blame lack of style on lack of sleep. If you ignore the dress code, you will look like you missed the memo, or the girl who turned up as Olaf when everyone else receiving the right invite came as Elsa.

I don’t know why so many women can’t be bothered with dress codes or think them a bother. Journalists are especially guilty, ST journalists in particular. It’s as if they’re saying, “We’re here to report the news, not to look nice.” And dressing appropriately would impede on their ability to do their job. Or, diminish their credibility. Maybe journalists won’t look nice because no one wants to look like Sumiko Tan? Maybe? As a friend pointed out to me, I have to understand that there are many people who see nothing wrong with attending a stated ‘gala’ event in T-shirt and jeans—they simply don’t care. Even when attending the Oscars in LA, apathy, like the passport, can’t be left at home.

Assuming you “made the mistake of not paying attention” to the “formal attire policy that everybody needs to adhere to at the Oscars”. It’s tempting to ask: Isn’t paying attention part of your job? And, let me add, have you never watched Red Carpet Live? Even the ushers are in evening wear. Did you not, for one moment, desire to not look like you just fell from the bleachers? Those there don’t wear a gown. Did you not know this isn’t the same as the Star Awards?

I have never quite understood why dressing appropriately is so difficult for some women. Is there no pleasure in donning a dress less ordinary? Are special occasions not so special anymore? Nor do I understand why throwing a jacket—any jacket—over the shoulder like a shrug can save them from a thousand scenes. For goodness’ sake, it’s not the le smoking and you’re not posing for Helmut Newton! Kid yourself not. It’s time to graduate from the campus chic (yes, oxymoron!) approach to fashion; it’s time to step up from killer heels that are already a huge misstep. Dress codes are imposed for a reason. Flouting them will not make you a cool fashion rebel; it’ll get you kicked out. This was the Oscars; this wasn’t your sister’s wedding.

Weather The Winter With Wonderful

Louis Vuitton AW 2018 P1

After last season’s boxer-shorts-as-interesting-piece-of-fashion, it lifts the spirit to see that Nicolas Ghesquière does not need to resort to such cheap styling tricks for Louis Vuitton’s autumn/winter 2018 collection. In fact, it is nice to witness Mr Ghesquière going back to what he does best: design. Pure delight are the details that draw the eyes, stir desires, and, as important, engage the mind. This, to us, is the Nicolas Ghesquière that made us love Balenciaga under his watch. Some memories don’t fade. This time, watching the LV show online was like drinking iced coffee after sucking on a mint drop.

Mr Ghesquière’s best collection for LV yet? We think so. He has dug deep into his love for old military uniforms and sporty shapes (but now paired with elegant other halves), a beguiling sense of contrast, the unexpected mix of garments, and a welcome love for creating panels/pieces and joining them to parts of the bodice normally not considered for application. More exquisitely, he made the clothes totally and acceptably wearable.

Extreme wearability has been the main thrust of many fashion houses in recent years. By this, we don’t mean that unwearability had dominated prior. Rather, wearability that edged closer to the banal and almost nothingness has taken centre stage, and many brands have taken that as cue for their products to be desired, to be successful. Now that that approach has slowly failed to grip, designers are choosing to go meretricious, as evidenced by the chronic loudness among many of the Italians.

Louis Vuitton AW 2018 G1

Louis Vuitton AW 2018 G2

Mr Ghesquière had come rather dangerously close to just-retail-ready when he took over LV from Marc Jacobs in 2013. His debut collection for the house in the following year (as well as those subsequently), while a clear departure from Mr Jacob’s tired over-design and a thrill to many fashion editors, did little to draw LV to us. Perhaps he was adrift with the winds of change at that time, when looking un-designed was aesthetic du jour. It did not have the clutch of the little extras, the sprinkling of quirkiness, and the dash of defiance that characterised his work before LV. It seems to have taken some time (from the start at LV, he wasn’t a young man in a hurry), but Mr Ghesquière has found his place in the house that, until 1998, did not boast a fashion line.

This season, there is so much to love, just as there is much to hold us rapt. For us, it has the definite kick that brings to mind the Balenciaga of autumn/winter 2007, which Mr Ghesquière had described as “a big mix—a street mix.” It was a collection that imbued Balenciaga with all the constituents of cool. A decade down the road, his work for LV has that similar jumble, only now it does not project the insouciance of girls dressed for school, or a date after class; it collates the sleekness and the confidence of the assuredly fashionable of yore with the swagger that has a whiff of today’s street style, one that is less linked to Lafayette Street, NYC, and more to Avenue Montaigne, Paris.

We’re particularly drawn to the shoulder treatment of many of the tops and blouses—those horizontal panels across the collarbone, shaped like a capelet over the shoulders, but appear to us, to be inspired by the shoulder panels of the gaktis tunics of the Sámi men of Lapland. There is, of course, nothing literal about Mr Ghesquière’s take (if it is so) since there is clearly a sportif treatment to his panels, particularly the extra, contrasting diagonal bands in some of the blouses that contrast the natural curve of the armscye, and, in particular, on one top that looked like an extra-long epaulettes rising from mid-upper arms. The graphic elements are not indistinct, and they highlight the skills of the LV pattern-makers, as much as the wealth of technical ideas dreamed up by Mr Ghesquière.

Louis Vuitton AW 2018 G3

Louis Vuitton AW 2018 G4

Sold too we were to the corsets (that could pass off as a waist-shaper from a fitness supply shop), appearing when they are least expected—as base on which the tiered ruffles of a halter-neck top shimmer somewhat incongruously, or the asymmetric overflow of fabric of the garment beneath; the textiles and prints that don’t appear to match (a clash that, conversely captivate rather than confuse; the angles, seams, and drapes that juxtapose happily; and the irrepressible desirability of the collage-like sum effect. Looking at the ensembles, you’re not merely seeing a dress or a blouse: you’re gazing at clothing of hardly ever seen complexity.

Mr Ghesquière has sometimes been called an avant-garde designer. In light of what is happening elsewhere in French fashion, perhaps he is. But avant-garde as we once knew it, pitched to Japanese or Belgian deconstructionism, has left the popular consciousness, so much so that we don’t really see unorthodoxy and experimentation in clothes anymore; we see ‘looks’. But Mr Ghesquière has not really abandoned the spirit of the avant-garde. Rather, he has stayed closed to it, applying his unconventional ideas within identifiable forms and graceful silhouettes that do not attempt to distort the shape of the body. The clothes, for instance, veer not towards the ultra skinny or the outsized, except for the dresses which, we suspect, are made somewhat big and baggy to goose interest among those weaned on the apparent size-disregard of Vetements.

You sense that with these clothes, the wearer belongs to a certain élan, one not kept afloat from the bubble-up effects that have put pressure on much of today’s fashion houses. To be sure, Louis Vuitton has always been a commercial brand. Nicolas Ghesquière makes it less so.

Photos: (top) FF Channel/Youtube, (catwalk) indigital.tv