Dress Watch: An Intricate Sheath

This Prada sheath dress would be spellbinding to those who appreciate design as much as dressmaking, and the efforts that go into something this complex that looks not quite

This season at Prada, much attention is paid to the double-faced silk satin, very abbreviated mini-skirts that come with an origami-ish train. They are all over social media, although mostly worn without the more covered-up tops that Prada probably intended. The brand called this wee piece of garment “seduction by reduction” and the public-transport-unfriendly train “a spontaneous gesture”. But long-time followers of their design development know nothing at Prada is ever reduced—stripped of details to nothing. And, despite the suggestion of insouciance, definitely not impromptu or offhand.

But more compelling is our favourite dress from the house this season: First seen on the runway (and the sales person was quick to inform us), this one-piece is, at it most elemental, a shirt-dress worn back to front. But, as we’ve noted, few item of Prada’s RTW are as simple as they first appear. The dress is of a conventional enough silhouette (to us, a whiff of the Forties), even with the considerably dropped shoulders. The focal point in the front is the waist, positioned not too high up. It is gathered by means of boning, inspired, presumably, by the corset. But unlike the close-fitting undergarment of the past, this boned treatment is not worn to constrict the torso. Nope, nothing as Victorian as that.

In fact, the boning is not discreet. Of different length placement (but symmetrical), the stiffening slips (we do not know if they are whalebone, nor the staff at the store), which looked to be half an inch (about 1.3 cm) wide, are hidden as well as exposed, allowing a graphically decorative interest. In addition, they keep the gathers in place and the bodice stiff, but not quite. This dress is not worn for body-shaping, and it is made in linen, which isn’t a rigid fabric. And that is, to us, deeply alluring about the dress: the idea of stiffening but executed with fabric that is somewhat limp, made more so by the slubbed finish.

In the rear, the dress is held together by a row of buttons from the collared opening at the neck to just below the posterior (the rest is an inverted-V opening). If you thought that would mean needing assistance getting buttoned-up, then take comfort in the knowledge that Prada intended the dress to be unbuttoned to the waist, which means you can fasten the last three or four buttons and get into the dress without any effort at all. Skin-baring, but without the sleazy exposure of Julia Fox.

Prada Slub Canvas Dress, SGD 7100, is available at Prada stores. Photo illustration: Just So

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