Two Of A Kind: Flounce To Trounce

Pan Ling Ling in Francis Cheong & Zuhair Murad CoutureLeft: Pan Ling Ling in Francis Cheong. Photo Facebook/ Pan Ling Ling. Right: Zuhair Murad Couture SS 2017. Photo: Zuhair Murad

Whatever is said about imitation and flattery, it is not always flattering for the wearer of the look-a-like.

Pan Ling Ling must have been elated with the Life declaration that she was one of the best-dressed actresses at Sunday night’s Star Awards (红星大奖). But would knowing that her gown, designed by Francis Cheong, looked too much like a Zuhair Murad diminish the elation for the Star Awards 2011 Best Supporting Actress?

Mr Murad showed his in January this year in Paris during Couture Week spring/summer 2017. An asymmetric gown for gala nights, its resemblance to the one Ms Pan wore made the accolade bestowed on her rather interesting. Should wearing a less-than-original design qualify the wearer for the best-dressed honour? Or can her likely ignorance and a big smile be her saving grace?

The version in red that appeared on Channel 8 (like most of you, we saw the presentation from the comfort of home) was familiar perhaps also because it’s typical of those you would see in gown conventions such as the Icon Ball (also known as fenghua wanyan or 风华晚宴): never too ang (red), never too flouncy, never too sexy.

Mr Murad makes statement gowns to be worn on red carpets or under chandeliers. His latest couture collection, named ‘Fires Waltz’, seems to be conceived with very specific customers in mind: debutantes, prom queens, beauty queens, and ball regulars. Mostly bearers of standard evening glamour, these women, like Pan Ling Ling, easily succumb to swishy gowns that can’t help looking dated or from another era, another stage. Mr Murad, in fact, admitted to that the silhouette of the collection was inspired by Dynasty—that ’80s TV homage to glamour and excess.

Thrilled by what Life proclaimed, Mr Cheong thanked The Straits Times early today in his Facebook page “for voting my pre fall (sic) 2017 Couture vermillion Duchess Satin gown that Pan Ling Ling wore as one of the Best Dressed List (sic)…” What was curious about the post was the accompanying photograph, which was a shot of a part of the Life article. The adjoining picture of fellow best-dressed pick Jesseca Liu was deliberately defaced, to the point that she was obliterated. Amusingly, Ms Liu was wearing Zuhair Murad. The discomfort of seeing one’s creation appearing next to the real deal must have warranted the blotting out!

Francis Cheong's post on FBScreen grab of Francis Cheong’s Facebook post

Life’s Alyssa Woo first called Ms Pan’s dress a “column gown”. We have no idea how the shapely form could be mistaken as that of a pillar’s. She later described it in the photo caption as a “gown with exaggerated ruffles”, which sounded like she was referring to the traje de flamenca. But there’s nothing about Mr Cheong’s design that is evocative of the costumes of Andalusian dance. The “ruffles” look to us to be a flounce, one that fell like the ends of valances of stage curtains, so different from the much softer and petal-like folds of Mr Murad’s design.

In the online edition of Elle Singapore, Ms Pan was described as “a vision”. The theophany escaped us, but, as with Ms Liu and Julie Tan (in a strangely bridal number with also a left-side flounce by Jessicacindy Hartono), Ms Pan’s conventional glamour was perhaps a lovely picture, even when the photographs that circulated online, including those of other Star Awards attendees, were mostly shot against bare walls that look like the corridor between the changing rooms and the MES Theatre at Mediacorp.

One make-up artist did not mince words: “All should be in the worst-dressed list.”