By now a ‘signature’, the Balenciaga long-sleeved, high-neck dress has taken a hiatus from hyper-floral prints to take on street-worthy scribbles and scrawls
Demna Gvasalia has remade the Balenciaga aesthetic so nearly completely that the dramatic volumes and shapes that the brand’s founder established are not even a distant memory anymore unless you’re a collector or a fashion historian. One of the dress silhouettes that Mr Gvasalia popularised—first seen at Vetements—is rather modest: nothing skin-tight or revealing, since they tend to cover both the neck and the arms; it can even be described as ‘sensible’. This oddly appealing primness has influenced fashion across many price points and cities, allowing what has been considered a “rebellious take on femininity” to pervade every level of the retail stratum.
Not to scrap a good thing (such as the the still-strong Triple S), Balenciaga offers another of those dresses that allow cool and KOL to go together as inseparables. This time, the version comes in a hot pink ‘technical’ (euphemism for synthetic) polyester crepe, on which text and the brand’s name are scribbled with the same enthusiasm as a child given a marker to run amok in a bathroom. Graffiti appearing on a denim jacket is understandable (and Balenciaga offers versions for men and women this season), but manic scrawls on a delicate pink one-piece that Balenciaga calls a “baby doll dress” is irony and subversion deliciously rolled up in one frock.
On the neck, which is fashioned characteristically high, some retailers described the elongated front overhang as a “pussy bow”, but, Balenciaga calls it a “neck scarf”, which sounds like a detachable piece, but is, in fact, not. Distinguished as a neck scarf is perhaps important because it isn’t, as the look book offers, worn knotted, but—as in a scarf—gently tied sans bow. Nothing akin to Celine, you understand.
The dress in the front is defined, but almost imperceptibly, with an elasticated waist that sits fairly high (hence the “baby doll” perhaps). At the back, it hangs straight, downwards, and is longer than it is in the front. The above-the-knee length, with the almost-haphazard-looking pleats, adds to that certain cool vibe that will be appreciated by those for whom such brevity immediately equals hip. Faddish graffiti notwithstanding.
Balenciaga pleated baby doll dress, SGD4,300, is available at Balenciaga, Paragon. Photo: Zhao Xiangji