Vixens, Vamps, And The Vainglorious

While sexy (and sexed-up) continues to be a big theme this season, Versace is not following a trend. They can’t be when they have been doing that all along

This fashion week season in Milan, celebrity is major. But not any personality known locally. Rather, Italian brands are using American stars of the West Coast, who made their name in reality TV, to headline their collections. Most talked about was Kim Kardashian at Dolce & Gabbana earlier. But a day earlier, it was Paris Hilton at Versace. Ms Hilton may not be as big a contributing fashion figure as Ms Kardashian (although she appears as a runway model frequently enough) and had no part in the Versace collection, but she is recognisable a name to let any label get cooking. And she is considered “a fashion icon”, at least in the US, where, as CR Fashion Book noted last February, “she fearlessly leaned into the fashion trends of the day, taking them to the next level and ensuring their prominence in fashion history”. Well, we have been living in a cave.

So there she was, the former “most iconic y2k teen” closing the Versace spring/summer 2023 presentation. On the runway, she sashayed with a distinctive gait as she normally does, and in a sparkly and drapey dress (chainmail, in fact) not terrible different from what she wore for The Blonds in New York last year, or even her show Cooking with Paris. Donatella Versace talked about the women she designs for in the show notes: “I have always loved a rebel. A woman who is confident, smart and a little bit of a diva. She wears leather, studs and frayed denim and she has enough attitude to mix them with chiffon, jersey, and a tiara! She is a strong liberated woman; she is gorgeous; she knows it. She is the Goddess of Freedom.” Was Ms Versace also referring to Kim Kardashian, if not herself?

What are clothes for goddesses, specifically “dark gothic goddesses”? If they are extraordinary women, not deities, they’d need the extraordinary—specifically those that celebrate sexuality, not demonise it; show more skin, in the process, not hide it. We know Ms Versace likes her goddess-pals to be sexy—not deific, so every garment you can imagine that would radiate sexiness were there on the runway. But the mini-est skirt, so brief that the front pouch pockets were longer, was not enough to communicate the rigorism that Ms Versace employs in her designs. Women need more than boudoir fashion outside (even if empowerment means she could wear those too, anywhere). So, added to the lingerie this-and-that were slinky slashed-across-the-torso dresses; layered frocks over skirts, over pants; every pair of slacks except sensible ones: cargo pants, motorcross pants, leather drainpipes, jeans with repeated slashed Xs; and shirts—sheer, of course, and laced and blinked-out with iron-on crystals. A gothic goddess needed to dazzle too.

Just as you want to notice her, you want to sense her. This season, Ms Versace desired a lot of movement, or, to be more specific, superfluous stuff that swing and sway around the body. There were considerable fringing—on almost every spot you can add the decorative border, including bags (when fringes were too much, there were the rolled-up versions—tassels). To make sure that there was a consistent show of these dangling lengths, there were cording and lacing too, all left too long so that they can hang and swing, and lash, at the slightest movement. And to be certain that you were looking at those descended from the pantheon, the strutting idols wore bracelets that identify them as “GODDESS”. Surprisingly, Paris Hilton did not find her place among those so worshipped during the finale, or take the customary end-of-show bow with Donatella Versace. Perhaps, two “Goddesses of Freedom” are not at liberty to stand side by side.

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